Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Was this last week for real?

Let me start off by saying that I would be perfectly alright with never having to witness another Game 6 in any playoff variety for the rest of my life. Last Tuesday I had to watch my San Antonio Spurs choke in an unfathomable fashion in a Game 6 that would have won them the NBA Championship. I’m not going to go into details to save myself from having to mentally relive it, but we all know what happened and he goes by the name of Ray Allen.

Fast-forward 6 days and we arrive at Monday night, Game 6 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Besides the Providence College Friars the Boston Bruins are the only other hometown team I root for and last night with about a minute and a half left in the game I was in pretty good spirits with the Bruins up 2-1. So much so that when my friend turned to me and said “Looks like we are heading for Game 7” I could only nod my head in agreement. Then the unspeakable happened mere seconds later. In true San Antonio Spurs fashion the Bruins chocked on their biscuits and it was bad. With 1:16 left in the period and Corey Crawford barely even off the ice in an attempt to give the Blackhawks a man advantage the tying goal was scored. I thought to myself; well damn that sucks, but hey overtime will be exciting. Ha, sick joke. 17 seconds later the Blackhawks decided to put the ultimate cherry on top of their historic season with another goal, this one to clinch Lord Stanley.

Two completely different sports and events, but yet two very similar “Did that really just happen?” moments. The two teams sporting the best records from the year in their respected sports with their back up against the wall and both of them somehow, miraculously, flip the scales. And for the city of Boston, things only got worse from there, but we will get to that a little later.

Shifting gears over to baseball there was no hotter team throughout the NBA and NHL Finals than my Toronto Blue Jays. That’s right I’m a Blue Jays fan too. Welcome to the blog of a man with obscure taste when it comes to favorite teams, don't hate. Before dropping the last two games to the Tampa Bay Rays the Jays had won 11 straight games, tying a franchise record. The team is clicking on all cylinders and is finally playing good team baseball.

Before the season started many had predicted the revamped Jays to cruise to their first AL East pennant since they won the World Series in the 92-93 season. People thought that the AL East was going to have a “down year” because of the epic Red Sox collapse of 2012 and all the injuries on the Yankees roster. Well people were wrong. First, the Jays started the year off horrendously winning only 10 of their first 31 games and lost Jose Reyes to a sprained ankle only a few weeks into the year. Not to mention he was the only person who even knew how to make contact with the baseball at this point. Then the Jays were dealt another blow when promising young third basemen BrettLawrie also went down with an injury and found his way to the DL. R.A. Dickey,Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson might as well have been pitching in a slow pitch softball league. Then to add injury to more injury, J.A. Happ took a line drive off the head and Josh Johnson also elected to take his yearly DL stint at the same time. It was essentially rock bottom for the Jays.

Things have started to work in favor of the Jays now though. They went out and found Chien-Ming Wang working at a starbucks or something and brought him back into the league. In three starts he has a 2.18 ERA. Adam Lind decided that he no longer wanted to be terrible and as of now is playing like his 2009 self where he posted a .305 batting average with 114 RBI’s and 35 home-runs. Yeah, he had THAT good of a year at one point. One of the other major reasons for the surge has been the Jays pitching. Buehrle looks like he has finally figured out pitching in the division and Josh Johnson has shown promise of also returning to his former 2010 self. The most unlikely source for the surge though was from a man who was called up from triple-a as a temporary replacement for Reyes. Munenori Kawasaki, no affiliation to the jet skis and dirt bikes, didn’t necessarily perform like a star, but he game his best effort day in and day out. With his effort and hard work he won over the affection of his teammates and more importantly the fans. He rallied the fans around the team and really helped bring some excitement to the club house. Which is why it is a bitter sweet moment today as Reyes was activated from the DL and will be in tonight’s starting lineup. This means Kawasaki’s motorcycle ride in the bigs has temporarily come to an end. Manager John Gibbons, who for the record I do not like, even called a team meeting to announce that he was going to be sent back down to the minors. In most cases, the team just arrives to the facilities and sees the locker empty and knows the jig, but this was a special case.

The hard thing now is going to be not slowing down. As I said before many thought the AL East was going to have a down year and boy has it been anything but that. The East in the only division in baseball that doesn’t have a team with a losing record and as of right now there are 13 total teams that fit that bill. As of today the Jays are on the cusp of being under .500 at 38-38, but let’s see how that stacks up in the rest of the divisions. If the Jays were in the NL East or West they would be in second place. In the AL Central and West it would be good enough for 3rd place. In the NL Central they would be in 4th place.  The East is the only division to have just one team with a negative run differential. That team is the Jays and their run differential is negative one. Hopefully they can keep it up and lessen the gap between them and the first place Sox and turn this division into the most fun division baseball has seen in years.

Now back to the bad and it seems all the bad these days has found a nice home in Boston. Earlier this week the Celtics traded their beloved coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a 2015 first round draft pick. The man who brought the Celtics to the promise land had very little interest in a rebuilding project and was instead sent to the Clippers as they hope to secure Chris Paul and sign him to a max contract.
Then if that wasn’t bad enough for a city, star tight end for the New England Patriots Aaron Hernandez killed a man. Then he thought that life was like CSI and that if he destroyed the evidence nobody would notice or care.

Here’s the recap for you in short; Ray Allen the ultimate Boston trader since Jonny Damon win an NBA Championship and it would not have happened without him. The Bruins handed the Blackhawks the Stanley Cup. Doc Rivers took his talents, and presumably CP3’s as well, to LA. Worst week for Boston sports fans ever. Wait, I think I’m forgetting something……..ohhhh yeah that’s right, Aaron Hernandez killed a guy and then basically told everyone he was guilty by destroying evidence because he was scared of Horatio Caine. 

Oh right, if all that wasn't crazy enough, Rafael Nadal fresh off his French Open championship lost in the first round of a major event for the first time in his career. Some person who I don't even care about getting his name right because he is so irrelevant beat him in STRAIGHT SETS. What is going on in the sporting world?

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Game 7: Nuff Said

It was all a blink of an eye. Coach Pop takes Duncan out of the game so a more versatile Boris Diaw can be in for defensive purposes. Ginobili steps up to the line and misses the first of his two free throws. Mike Miller gets an offensive rebound and gives it to LeBron who cashes the three. The 21 year-old Y now steps to the line and he too misses a free throw. Wait a second, why is Timmy coming out of the game again? We need him for rebounding as made clear when Mike Miller got an offensive rebound. The same Mike Miller that played in 17 games all year because he is as old as dust and when he jumps you would be hard pressed to slide a piece of paper under his feet. Then it happens. Y makes his second free throw and the Spurs are up three. LeBron comes down and misses his first three, but then another offensive rebound. This time it was a tiny dinosaur (Chris Bosh) who finds Ray Allen and in most clutch cases the only thing Ray Allen finds is the bottom of the net, which he did.

It always seems to come down to the intangibles. Who can hit their free throws and who can get that game clinching rebound? Well on Tuesday night the Spurs decided that rather than succeed at those intangibles in the final seconds of play, they would rather send this series to an anything can happen Game 7. The yellow rope was out, the crowd was exiting and I was prematurely celebrating as the Spurs were up 4 with 30 seconds left and they had the ball. It was a dream scenario; In Miami with the crowd already exiting and the utmost confidence in my team because it is the Spurs. The same Spurs team that is viewed league-wide as the team that doesn’t crack, the well oiled machine with Coach Gregg Popovich at the helm, the greatest coach in the NBA. Surely he won’t make a mistake in the clutch right? Surely he won’t make the same mistake the next time down the court…….right? Surely Manu Ginobili, one of the veteran leaders who has already been through and won three NBA Finals won’t miss a free throw to put us up six with 30 seconds left as opposed to five. And SURELY Mike Miller will not get an offensive rebound with 20 seconds left.

It was true Spurs fashion. They have always been a crew that wins as a team and in this instance they lost as a team. So now what? How does a team bounce back from on the cusp of winning an NBA Championship to play a Game 7 on the road?  A feat that has not been done since the Washington Wizards were more, Gilbert Arenas appropriately named, as the Washington Bullets.  Well they are going to have to do it in true Spurs fashion, as a team.

Tony Parker will not be able to shoot 6-23 if they want any shot at winning this game. We are going to need our man Manu to show up as he did in Game 5. Ginobili has recently been linked to retirement rumors and what better way to do out than David Robinson style by leaving it all on the floor and leaving a champion. He could start that by not leaving the ball on the floor too. Guy had eight turnovers in the last game including a crucial on in the last 2 minutes that he might as well have handed to LeBron with a muffin basket. It’s hard to ask Tim Duncan to show up again after last games performance, but it’s not hard to ask him not to disappear in the second half. He had anything and everything he wanted in the first half. Heck he probably could have made Norris Cole shave his awesome haircut off if he wanted to. Then it the second half he was non-existent. Y and Boris Diaw are going have to lock LeBron James up like he is OJ with a nicely fitting glove. Tiago Splitter is going to have to do something. I don’t know if that is necessarily basketball and on court related, but making sure everyone is properly hydrated is a good start for him. Lastly I am going to need myself a very healthy dose of Danny Green. It’s time for him to light that fire one last time and prove his case for series MVP.

“Hey, uhhh Chris, you realized you pretty much just asked everyone to play awesome right?” Damn straight that’s what I’m saying. If the Spurs want to win this game they are going to have to put on one hell of a show because there is no way Miami is coming on slow or sloppy on their home court. The Spurs are going to have to come out of the gate flying with a tempo that has yet to be seen in these Finals.

I know this isn’t really a proper Game 7 preview and a lot of it is more of a rant by me, but in all honestly I am WAY to anxious for this game tonight and can’t properly concentrate. I’ll leave with this as I guess most people reading this will be rooting for the Spurs since nobody likes Miami. Nothing would be more satisfying then to see Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan show this wannabe “Big 3” how the first and real Big 3 does it. Show them how proper growth and true team work can lead to not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE NBA Championships.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

One-Two Punch

Five games of the NBA Finals have now been played and completed and what have we learned? For starters Danny Green is well… know he’s…..what I’m trying to say is….How do you even describe in a witty analogy what this man is doing? You can’t. All you can do is let the facts explain it and the facts are he is shooting 66% from the money-ball territory and has hit at least four threes in every game, but one. In fact, you might have been able to write this series all but over had Danny Green not appeared on the scene


Now, what else have we learned? How about the fact that neither one of these two teams lose well. In five games of play there has been one close game in game one, while the rest have been absolute blowouts. Each team answers back with their own hay-maker and even though game five may have ended in a ten point Spurs win you’d be lying to yourself if you actually thought the Heat were going to close out their run in the fourth. The fact of the matter is these two teams just don’t lose back-to-back games and if they do, they know how to bounce back. The Heat last lost back-to-back games in January against the Pacers and Trailblazers respectively. Not to mention both games were away. The Spurs lost three in a row to close out the season, granted they were resting for the playoffs, but it’s still three straight losses. They turned things around to sweep the Lakers, take four of six from the Warriors and then get another sweep, this time of the Grizzlies. This is what happens when two teams who don’t lose well face off. They lose, go back to the drawing board and figure out exactly why they lost and then exploit that in the next game. It is truly masterful.
In Game 5 the big story was of course Danny Green breaking Ray Allen’s record of three pointers made in a final series which was set at 23. Danny Green now has 25 with at least one game left to improve on that mark. There was something else that happened in Game 5 though and it was something much, much more important. Manu Ginobili emerged from whatever cavernous place he crawled up inside to and looked the Manu of old. He was dribble-driving by defenders left and right and finishing with his left or right. The man of Manu was unstoppable. What happened exactly? After a sit down one-on-one meeting with Coach Pop Manu felt as though he needed to come out and perform in this one, "I was angry, I was disappointed," Ginobili said. "We are playing in the NBA Finals, we were 2-2 and I felt I still wasn't really helping the team that much. And that was the frustrating part." So with Ginobili feeling this way and after Pop’s meeting with him Pop decided it was time for his go to Manu maneuver. What is that you ask? Well it’s to put him in the starting line up in a crucial playoff game of course. Three other times in his career in the playoffs Ginobili has been in a funk and Pop has put him into the starting lineup to try and get him out of his rut and 3 out of 3 times (now 4 of 4) it has worked beautifully. The previous three times Ginobili dropped at least 30 and then proceeded to remain in the starting lineup until the next series.

Another crucial thing happened in Game 5 is what I have been wanting to happen since before Game 3. If you remember reading from my post after Game 2 you may remember that I said I wanted to see BorisDiaw get a little more involved after his rough Game 2 outing. If you don’t remember that, it is probably because you didn’t read the earlier post and are a terrible person. It’s too late now though, it’s your own fault and you missed out on more awesome writing. Anyways, for Game 3 Pop went in the other direction and didn’t play Diaw for a minute. Not even when they had it in the bag and could breathe easy. That’s all changed now. Diaw is stepping up to the bell and he too is answering it. Being the bigger body he is and being a little quicker on his feet than most power forwards Diaw has been covering LeBron James while my man Y has been catching his breath. Not many people know or remember this, but when this Frenchman was drafted into the league by the Phoenix Suns he was drafted as a point guard. Since then he has put on a little weight and bulked up a bit and is now an extremely versatile power forward. Similar to what James does except not nearly as good. In fact that wasn’t really even a valid comparison because of how much better James is. That doesn’t stop Diaw though. The times where James shot the ball with Diaw guarding him in Game 5, James only shot 1-8 from the floor. Since Diaw is so big and actually has some lateral movement, it allows him to cut off the lane quicker and with a bigger body which leads James to settle for jumpers.

That is the genius of the Spurs. They truly embody what a team should be about. Each game there is a new person stepping up in the limelight giving them exactly what they need. In Game 3 it was Gary Nealcashing in from down town all game while Y plays the most suffocating D imaginable on James. In Game 5 it was so much like the Ginobili of old I was surprised he didn’t have that mop of hair on his head and as I just said we had Diaw denying James.

Who is going to step up now? With two chances to send the Heat packing, who is the man that steps up and helps us out in Game 6. I have 3 players in particular I want to keep an eye on. The first is TiagoSplitter. This man has been horrendous. Every time he has gone up for a shot or pass I have been surprised when it hasn’t been blocked or stolen away from him. I’m not necessarily expecting him to have a good game, but more or less asking him to stand up and prove he is actually capable of being on a basketball court. The next man I’d like to see step up is the young Cory Joseph. It’s a lot to ask of the kid, but with Tony Parker’s ailing hamstring it would be nice to see him get a solid 6-10 in the small amount of minutes he plays. The last man I will have my eye on is an interesting one. I feel as though he is Pop’s secret weapon of sorts and he is just waiting to fire away. That man is the real life Red Barron/Red Rocket, Matt Bonner. You always hear about in big finals clinching games with those random players who step up and have the game of their lives to help solidify the championship and I think if the Spurs want to do that tonight in Miami then Bonner is going to need to make it rain. He has been quiet all series and I believe Pop may have some sort of offensive scheme set up for him to have some open looks when he gets in.


P.S. I probably will at some point do something regarding the Bruins, but my Hockey knowledge is vastly inferior to that of my basketball so we shall see how that goes. In the meantime everybody should listen to Mike “Doc” Emrick. The man is a master at play-by-play commentary and there isn’t anyone who could even compare to being as good as him. I mean seriously who would ever thought you could feather, flutter, flip, fling, fly, float, finesse, force, fire, flank and fit a puck to a player or space? The man uses over 50 different words a game to describe a pass and most don’t make sense, but at the same time, they make too much sense. 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

LeBron Rejects Splitter and the Spurs Look to Bounce Back

It was the block heard round the world and by this point it has surely been played on most living room television sets and YouTube channels. I have been a long endorser for the fact that Tiago Splitter just does not look like a basketball player. He looks like that tall gangly kid who belongs in the band playing the baritone saxophone because he is the only one as tall enough to do so. Well, after Sunday night I can't imagine anyone disagreeing with that. After receiving a very nice bounce pass off a screen and roll from Tony Parker, Splitter turned to the hoop and got very wide-eyed. Why did he get wide-eyed you ask? Well it's simple. He saw a lane. A lane like an airstrip leading right to the basket. The only problem with this lane, is that LeBron James was at the end of it....waiting. So as soon as Splitter made his move to the basket, LeBron made his move to deny him and boy was it a much bigger and louder move. He got up there and blocked Splitter worse than Dikembe Mutumbo blocked that child's cereal in the Geico commercial.

Seeing as I am a Spurs fan and want to save myself from seeing the play again I am not going to post it here. That being said though, feel free to look it up yourself. Just go to YouTube and search LeBron James and then YouTube will automatically suggest the next word to be block. That's how bad it is. LeBron has a whole Sportscenter special highlight focusing on his chase down blocks for which he is infamous for. Yet, if you search LeBron James block on YouTube you have to scroll through 16 different videos of him blocking Splitter just to find one video on said chase down blocks. 

Please tell me you saw LeBron wearing a LeBron shirt in that interview? 

The funniest part about it was the fact that the game was well out of reach at that point anyways and it still generated this much buzz. Imagine if it had actually been at a crucial point in the game, like when Roy Hibbert blocked that terribly selfish player on the Knicks that will never win a ring in his NBA career.

The LeBron block basically summed up the game in a nutshell. The Spurs trying to take a commanding 2-0 lead with three games in San Antonio and all of that rejected by the Heat. For each blow the Spurs dealt out the Heat came right back. Danny Green was so on fire that he may as well have been the Human Torch. The only difference is, he would have gotten a bank loan. That was an Anchorman reference. If you didn't understand it, shame on you. The kid was 5-5 from the triple zone and 6-6 total on the game. Even with that performance though they still couldn't handle the Heat. Insert cliché getting out of the kitchen quote here.

If the Spurs want any shot at winning tonight's game three there are a few things that are going to have to happen. First and foremost the Spurs have got to stop turning the ball over. After having just a measly four turnovers in game one the Spurs amassed four times amount in game two with 16 of them. Another change that must happen comes with Gary Neal. I have always believed Gary Neal to be a poor mans George Hill, but since the playoffs have started he might as well be the change in the couch cushions. During the regular season Neal averaged a healthy 20 minutes a game while shooting a solid 41% from the floor including 36% from the three and all the while averaging just about 10 points a game. It has been a different story since the playoffs have started though. Neal is down in every statistical category. He is only getting about 15 minutes a game while averaging 5 points and shooting a dismal 35% from the floor and a Josh Smith Esq, 27% from three point. Now don't get your panties in a bunch saying stuff like; “You can't compare Gary Neal to Josh Smith! Josh Smith is good.” Shut-up. I know he is good, but he shoots three's like he is J.J. Redick and only makes about 28% of them. Hence, the Josh Smith comparison.

The next thing that needs to take place is probably a little more crucial than Neal and that is the 3 point play from Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili. The two are a combined for 4-16 from three point territory in the series and have been missing shots more open than Manu's bald spot. The only reason I take some of the pressure off Y in this situation is because he has been doled the task of guarding LeBron and has been doing incredible thus far.

How do you change these things? Well to be honest I can't really see Pop changing much as far as Gary Neal is concerned. If anything I see him maybe actually dialing it back a bit and maybe taking less shots than he normally would which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I think that Manu may have an increased role in this game especially seeing as the Heat may put a little extra focus on Danny Green. As far as the turnovers go that is just going to have to be a mental correction and nobody does mental corrections like coach Pop does. I will also be looking for Tiago Splitter (I know I thought we were done with him too) to be MORE aggressive. That's right, more aggressive. I may not enjoy seeing him get rejected at the rim, but I sure as hell love his aggression and I see him coming out extra aggressive to show that the block hasn't rattled him. Then again there is a very good chance it did rattle him. Oddly enough I also see Borris Diaw having an increased role in this game. Diaw is only averaging 10 minutes thus far in the series after getting 17.5 in the previous two so look for him to have a bit of an increased role in this one.

As far as my prediction goes I do not have one. I am not a crystal ball and therefore I have no idea who will win. I also do not want to jinx the Spurs. If I pick them to win and they lose then I jinxed them, but if I pick them to lose and they lose well then I was right and I still jinxed them. It's basically a lose-lose unless they win. HA, get it?


Also on a side note, Rafael Nadal won his 8th French Open this weekend bringing his Grad Slam total to 12 wins trailing only the great Pete Sampras (14) and some ass-clown that everybody says is the best tennis player ever in Roger Federer (17). Yeah, people are probably right about that best tennis player ever thing, but who cares! Nadal is 27 and after a 7 month lay-off looks poised for greatness. Let's just hope his knees hold up for another 3-4 years.

On another side note; Djokovich sucks.  

Thursday, 6 June 2013

NBA Finals Game 1 Preparation

Tonight will kick off the first game of what I hope to be a fantastic series in the NBA Finals and rather than make a Game 1 Preview I decided to make a Game 1 Preperation. As most people who will read this know I am a devout Spurs fan so there is an obvious reason for me to be excited. So, as a long time Spurs fan, I would also like to take this time out to welcome everybody living outside of Dade County to the bandwagon and lay out some of the ground rules. You see, rooting for the Spurs is not as easy as just hoping they win the NBA Championship because you, like everybody else in the world, hate Bron Bron. Nope. This bandwagon will be about pulling together for the comraderie of a team looking to solidify itself as one of the best, if not the best, teams of the last decade. For this reason and for the fact I fear not all of you are fully committed to rooting on this fantastic team that isn't at all boring to watch, I have comprised a list. This is a list of rules, regulations and random facts that I deemed were necessary in preparation for tonight's game 1. These are to be memorized and committed to heart before tip off tonight.

  1. The Spurs are not boring to watch
  2. Every foul called on the Spurs is a flop on the Heat
  3. Manu Ginobili does not flop
  4. Ray Allen sucks (I like Boston and I'm still bitter)
  5. Shane Battier is a no good Dukie (Both in the university sense and the, what I flush down the toilet, sense)
  6. The Spurs are not boring to watch
  7. There is a love hate relationship with Thiago Splitter
    1. We hate him because he just looks like he doesn't belong on the court and also looks downright weird
    2. We love him because for some odd reason he is...good?
  8. It is still the Alamo Dome as far as we Spurs fans are concerned
  9. Norris Cole has an awesome haircut (That's not really relevant to the Spurs, but I though everybody should know this)

  10. The Heat like really unnecessarily oversized things
    1. Udonis Haslems mouth piece
    2. Lebrons headband
  11. Dwyane Wade gets dressed with his eyes closed and he must be ridiculed for that

  12. The Spurs are not boring to watch
  13. You must watch all courstide interviews with Greg Popovich because they are that good

  14. Do not refer to Gregg Popovich as Gregg Popovich. His name is Pop or Coach Pop and since he is the best coach in the NBA nobody is worthy enough to call him by his first name
  15. On a related coaching note, Erik Spolstra is not a good coach
  16. In fact let's just go ahead an say Erike Spolstra isn't even a coach and isn't even good enough to hold Tracy McGrady's towel and gatorade.
  17. Tracy McGrady probably doesn't need a towel or gatorade, but let's be honest we all want him to get that ring
  18. The Spurs are not boring to watch
  19. Tony Parker is the best rapper alive

  20. It is perfectly acceptable to call Tim Duncan “Timmayyyyy”
  21. Manu Ginobili STILL does not flop
  22. Kawhi Leonard does not show any excitement, therefore you must show it for him
  23. You must also refer to him in the way to which he prefers which is by the very neutral, non-emotional letter “y”
  24. The guy literally never shows any emotion at all. Seriously watch the game and see if he cracks or smile or gets excited once.
  25. Although Borris Diaw is a little chunk we will respect him for the versatility he brings to the floor.
  26. Gary Neal has two first names.
  27. But seriously, Y will just run down the court throw it down all up in somebodies grill and then just turn and run back down court

  28. Patty Mills is Australian so that's pretty cool
  29. You saw the video right? Guy stole it, went the length of the court, threw it down lefty and then just has an”Eh, whatever, that was kind of tiring” look on his face.

So there you have it. A list of 30 things everyone must learn in order to root for the Spurs before tonight's game. For the record, I will disregard the fact that most of you hated the Spurs for the last 10 years and calling them boring to watch. Now, I welcome you aboard the “Go Spurs Go” Bandwagon, cheer your hearts out and check back before game 2 for a recap of game 1 and preview for game 2.  

P.S. This blog was quickly and hastily put together. I will jazz it up as soon as I get the chance