Monday, May 22, 2017

Finally Something Exciting Happens

These NBA playoffs have been boring. Blow out after blow out. Bad team after bad team. The Cavaliers had a 20 plus point lead when LeBron James finally showed he's capable of being human and actually have a bad game. The 11 points he scored against the Celtics in game 3 lead the Cavaliers to the snapping of their perfect record in these playoffs. Now only one team stands undefeated in the playoffs and that's the Golden State Warriors, who unlike the Cavaliers, have many more options on offense than the Cavaliers do. Kevin Love actually showed a pulse in this game and yet they still lost. Kyrie Irving where has he been? politely waiting for James to carry him to another title? I'm not trying to take anything away from Irving. He's a talented young player with the potential to carry a team, but 29 points 2 rebounds and 7 assists in 40 minutes in a game where LeBron didn't have it isn't going isn't going to cut it.

The Cavaliers are going to make the NBA Finals. They're going to go up against the Warriors, but without a competent Irving and Love the chase for back to back titles is going to be futile for LeBron and the Land. The Cavs are better than the Celtics, and better than the Wizards, and better than any other team out of the East, but the Warriors are really good and their role players would be able to compete against some of the lower level teams out of the East. Without Irving the Cavs don't stand a chance. LeBron deserves blame for losing game 3, but let's not forget Irving's 29 and Love's 28 points (6 of which came in the second half) won't cut it especially when the Warriors look as good as they do. It took a lucky bounce from a kid named Smart to finally bring some excitement to these proceedings.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Oh, The Clippers

The Clippers have gone from a joke during the regular season to a joke in the post season. The Los Angeles Clippers just haven't been able to break through. Before the Clippers became contenders they were a lack luster group of players who played through the 82 game season and was habitually in the lottery. Until recently, when the Clippers were able to hire Coach Doc Rivers away from Boston and then draft talented players like Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan while also getting Chris Paul from New Orleans in a shady deal that initially was supposed to send him to the Los Angeles Lakers, but then commissioner David Stern shut the trade down to the Lakers deciding that it would make the league unbalanced (which is funny considering the state of the league right now).

So now with a core of  Paul, Griffin, Jordan, three potential hall of famers, while being lead by a hall of fame coach, and an ever growing supporting cast, the Clippers were finally able to put together a wining season and a march to the playoffs. That first run resulted in a series win over the Grizzlies, but then a sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. In the 6 years the Clippers have in contention they haven't made it passed the Conference Semi Finals and crashing and burning in the playoffs. The Clippers would have leads on their opponents and somehow would cough it up. Injuries and bad luck have taken their toll especially on Griffin who always seems to get hurt at the wrong time. Now the Clip show, Lob City, or whatever clever nicknames they have are out of the playoffs, again, and now have to decide what they're going to do with Griffin who can be a free agent and JJ Reddick who also is supposed to be a free agent. Doc has a lot to work to do or he may be done.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Death of the Big Man

Oh how the NBA has evolved. No longer is the center centric roster format the popular way to go. Before, most teams were trying to find the next Shaq, now most teams are trying to find the next Stephen Curry. Guard heavy roster construction has become the norm. In fact most teams don't care how tall a player may be as long as he can make a 3 point shot. Along with the statistical overload that has started taking over sports in the last 3 to 4 years the emphasis of the 3 point shot has gotten the biggest boost, because why score 2 points when you can get 3 in the same possession? That train of thought is very much valid, but it has made the likes of Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan almost obsolete. Sure Howard and Jordan can still be relied upon to defend the paint, but in previous versions of the NBA they would not only be the defensive horse, but they'd also be one of the main offensive options. Sure, there's Rudy Gobert in Utah who is still considered one of their main offensive threats, but off the top of my head I think that's the last big man who plays a vital role in the team's offensive thinking.

Think of the Gasol brothers. Marc was a Shaq-like player who played in the paint and along with Zach Randolph made the Grizzlies look intimidating in the paint. Now, he still plays in the paint on defense, but on offense he prefers to take mid-range jump shots and floats to the 3 point line from time to time. Pao has always been more versatile than his brother, taking advantage of what the defense would give him whether it be a mid-range jump shot or a lay up or even the 3 pointer, but as Pao has gotten older he too has banged less in the paint and drifted out to where only guards usually roam. The success of the Golden State Warriors hasn't helped the cause of the big man since they won their title on the backs of position-less basketball rotations anchored by Draymond Green who can guard the opposing team's center and can keep an opposing guard in front him. Sure not every team has a Draymond, but that was never a worry for GMs. Now they all want Green's teammate with the smooth J from 3.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Where the NBA Stands

The NBA is a special league. No other American sports league has the type of space that the NBA has to work with. The NBA has the popularity of generations and doesn't have to deal with the short attention span issues that baseball has to deal with and doesn't have the violent streak that scares off the fragile from the NFL. The new commissioner has made a link between previous stars and modern stars and actually has allowed them to be themselves on TV. The "Player's Only" programming on TNT Monday nights is genius it's like the studio show with Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Kenny Smith, but on steroids. All roles from the pregame studio show, to the sideline reporting, to the halftime studio show is done by former players. No studio gasbags leading the conversation or trying to change the subject or trying to control the players when they go off on a rant. All other sports shows incorporate former players, but not like this.

The NBA has labor peace, popularity, and most importantly a HUGE TV deal that gets everyone paid. But the league isn't without some minor issues. Teams resting stars during nationally televised games is a problem but it isn't anything that should sink the ship. Silver can write however many sternly worded emails to the owners, but when it comes to winning an NBA championship coaches are going to rest their stars whenever they need to. Most NBA games, even when sloppy, can excite a crowd with fast pace action even if it leads to nothing. That's the kind of instant entertainment this generation craves. No need to wait for a hitter to put a ball in play or one guy crushing another guy in the middle of an open football field. When it comes to basketball, parents won't complain about their kid playing a violent sport and risk long term health issues and they can't complain about the price of baseball equipment. Basketball is the safest sport of all. It's about time the Association started playing their cards right.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

As Flawed as it Could Get

Dellin Betances has been one of the most elite set up men in the majors in the last few years. He's thrown the most innings, he's had the third most strikeouts behind Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, and has the 4th lowest era behind nothing but elite closers. This offseason is Betances' first chance to get paid through the arbitration process and Betances and his agent filed for 5 million dollars while the Yankees filed for 3 million. Instead of the two parties meeting in the middle of both offers they got dragged to a hearing where both parties make the case for why Betances deserves to either make 3 or 5 million. The hearing process can be ugly. The team pretty much makes the case that the player isn't worth the money that they're asking for in Betances' case the biggest knock has been that he only has 22 saves in the 3 years he's been in the majors.

Saves has been considered an ancient statistic that has no real representation as to how good a player is. Betances lost his hearing and will make 3 million dollars this upcoming season. Three million dollars is not chump change, but it is not indicative of how a pitcher of Betances' caliber should be getting paid. The saber movement has helped front offices quantify how good players are. It's the reason why older players are getting pushed out at the rate they are, but when it comes to a player getting paid front offices use statistics that are considered ancient so they can avoid paying players. Betances got dragged through the mud by his team to save the team 2 million dollars; a team that is valued at 3.4 billion. The arbitration process needs to change so that players in the future can avoid Betances' fate.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Times are a Changing

JP Arencibia is an ex-catcher that played on several teams and has called it a career at 31. The turnover rate is getting smaller and smaller thanks to the amount of young talent that's making it to the big leagues. There's a record number of players age twenty-five and under who teams are valuing more and more. Players are being rushed to the majors the minute they show top to mid prospect level talent. The dreaded stat WAR (Wins Above Replacement - where a player is compared to league average production) has made the old grizzled veterans almost obsolete. It seems like if you're not in the prime of your career teams aren't interested in bringing you on board. Just a year after the Baltimore Orioles signed first base/designated hitter Chris Davis to a huge 7 year 161 million dollar contract Davis' teammate Mark Trumbo had to scratch and claw his way to a 3 year 37.5 million dollar contract with the same Baltimore Orioles after coming off a season where Trumbo hit 47 home runs and drove in 108 runs.

Numbers like those usually guarantee a player a huge pay day, but not in this climate. Trumbo is mainly a designated hitter who spells Davis at first base from time to time and his defensive metrics aren't strong at all, but that's never stopped an American League team from going all in on a player like Trumbo and offering a Davis-like contract. It's not only an issue that Trumbo is suffering. Last year Chris Carter lead the National League in home runs with 41, but he also had 206 strike outs and has the same, if not worse, defensive numbers than Trumbo and Carter had to settle for a 1 year 3.5 million dollar deal with the New York Yankees or he was about to start taking offers from leagues in Asia. If the aging ball player isn't given a chance there are going to be a number of players like Arencibia who is going to be looking for work behind a hot mic and not a hot bat.

Monday, February 20, 2017

What's In An MVP?

This season in the NBA there have been two players who have taken the league by triple double storm. One being Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder who has twenty seven triple doubles and is averaging a triple double on the season. The first player to have such numbers since Oscar Robinson and the other being James Harden of the Houston Rockets who has fifteen triple doubles of his own. Both players have been outstanding and at the all star break for the NBA the competition for MVP so far has mainly been between these two players (even though LeBron James' name has crept into the conversation since Kevin Love has suffered injury and LeBron has taken more on his shoulders). The biggest difference to me is where the Thunder and Rockets stand in the standings of the Western Conference. The Thunder are seventh while the Rockets are third.

To me what Westbrook has been doing has been very impressive if not historic, but I think that with the overall success that Harden and the Rockets are having within this season Harden, at least at this point in the season, is the MVP. It comes down to the term "valuable" are the Rockets a three seed without Harden I'm going to say no would the Thunder be seventh without Westbrook, I will say that the Thunder would have a better chance at seventh without Westbrook than the Rockets would have at being three without Harden. If both players keep up the their on and LeBron doesn't do what LeBron does and just completely takes over I think James Harden should walk away with the MVP. Not to ignore what Westbrook has done, but the goal is to win and considering that Harden is doing more winning I would hand the trophy to Harden.