Friday, May 30, 2008

Around the Internets (or just the NYT)

Kimbo Slice Edition

There are two interesting articles on website of The New York Times about the coming-out party for Mixed Martial Arts, featuring the one and only Mr. Slice, on CBS this weekend. The first details the extensive, hip-cracking research my favorite announcer Gus Johnson undertook to prepare himself for his new gig. And the second story is about the ways in which MMA has targeted the military demographic. Which makes sense.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Friday's Starting Five

1. The Los Angeles Lakers. The No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs has officially cleared the field and been crowned conference champions. It is an accomplishment to win the championship of one's league in any season but to do so this year when the competition was so very good ranks even higher. I hope that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak send's on of those goofy-looking conference champion hat and a nice bottle of champagne to his counterpart in Memphis Chris Wallace, who made this all possible by handing over Pau Gasol for forty cents on the Euro.

2. Kobe Bryant. You can say what you want (and trust me I often do to the dismay of my Lakers-fan-housemate) about this enthusiast of forcible as well as consentual adultery, but the guy can sure as hell (likely a place he will eventually also hoop it up, except with my skillset) win a ballgame. Kobe was as dominant as ever last night in the conference-championship-clinching win over the San Antonio Spurs.

3. The National Basketball Association. One down. The Lakers in the Finals. One to go. I'd imagine David Stern readying his KG jersey for tonight's game. At this point I'm officially pulling for the Pistons to pull this Series out, if just so I don't have to watch the referees confuse themselves by trying to fix games for both the Lakers and the Celtics simultaneously.

4. David Wright. His two home runs off Brad Penny lifted the Mets back to .500 and kept Willie Randolph's job safe through the weekend.

5. Jack Nicholson's agent. Whomever holds down this gig has to be thrilled that his/her client's visibility is going to be threw the roof for the next few weeks as telecasts of the NBA Finals inevitably cut to Jack after ever third possession and every borderline officiating decision that goes against his Lakers. Could the script for The Bucket List 2: Sky-Diving in Hell be far off?

Benched. Sasha Vujacic. This guy is an ass. Michael Finley essentially told him as much when after launched and canned a three-pointer as the clock ran out in last night's game. The contest was over. The Spurs weren't going to foul and the Lakers just needed to let the final few ticks tick off the game clock. Simple. Not quite. Vujacic launches the aforementioned three, breaking of the many unwritten rules of the game. However, not overly concerned with whether or not Kurt Thomas was going to punch this kid in the face my first thought was the point spread. Had A Boy Named Sasha just wrecked the spread with his unsportsmanlike heave? Yup. It was a 7.5 spread and even though the Spurs were losers they were going to cover, which makes them winners to most. Well, they were going to cover until Jerkacic hit that three, bumping the final tally to 100-92. That's an 8-point margin of victory and a really tough way to drop a bet.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Please Call Back Later

With the season being over and things getting a little out of hand (i.e. the proverbial gorilla mask glued to the face) over at What Would Oakley Do? Headquarters, I'm going to go ahead and ask you all to call back next week. How about Wednesday? Cool? Great.

When WWOD? returns on Wednesday, May 21st after Memorial Day Weekend, we'll be back in full force rather than this half-assery that I've been perpatrating since the Knicks hung up their high-tops for the summer.

Upcoming Features:
Better Know Your New Coach: The Official WWOD? Mike D'Antoni Primer
Knee Jerks: How Stockholm Syndrome and Know-It-All-Ness Led Lawrence and Isola to Pan the D'Antoni-Signing
Better Know A Draft Pick: WWOD? Weekly Look At a Player From the Draft*
*with surprise guests

(...And keep an eye out for that total site redesign that is around the corner too)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Thursday's Starting Five

1. Kobe Bryant. He lifted the 2007-2008 NBA MVP trophy last night. He lifted it up above his head while David Stern stood by his side and quoted a famous fantasy film franchise about an immortal Scotsman. After that bit of awkwardness, Bryant forced himself upon the Jazz, scoring 34 in the LA win.

2. Rashard Lewis. Apparently Lewis was a bit jealous of his Turkish teammate for getting all the PT in the Starting Five. He netted a career-playoff-high of 33 points in leading the Magic back into their series against the Pistons. He was devastatingly efficient (shooting 11-15 from the field and 6 of 8 from the line) and seemed to hit a shot each time that the Pistons looked like they were going to come back (or at least cover the spread...).

3. Carlos Gomez. The former Mets farmhand and current Twins speedster hit for the cycle last night against the White Sox. His was the reverse cycle: Home run, triple, double, single. Gomez was the first Twin to accomplish the feat since Kirby "I never lost sight of the refrigerator" Puckett.

4. Matt Walsh. After a seemingly endless wait the Patriots Assistant of Illegal Video Taping turned Hawaii Golf Pro finally delivered some evidence to NFL Comissioner Roger Goodell. Walsh sent 8 tapes to the NFL that include signals by five opponents in six games from 2000 through 2002. The legendary tape of the Rams walk-through before the 2002 Super Bowl was not part of the haul and I would imagine that many in New England and in New York (at the NFL offices) breathed a sigh of relief about that. That would seem to be the one piece of evidence that would force Goodell's hand. Because even though it's (apparently) not a huge deal to cheat against the Jets there would have been no way that he could have stood pat if it turned out the Pats definitively cheated in a Super Bowl.

5. Pau Gasol. Last night was Kobe's night. This is Kobe's team. It's Kobe's year. In Kobe's city. But let's not overlook just how much Gasol already means to this Lakers team and how good he already was when he was he plucked from the NBA-purgatory that is Memphis. The Spaniard is already the glue-guy on this team. He played the most minutes last night and was the bridge from the bench to the starters. He is the focal point of the offense during the stretches when Kobe is lurking at the perimeter of the action (and the three point circle). Gasol is the constant. He is the room temperature of the Staples Center. And without him this team would be as rudderless as they were in past seasons.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Kevin Garnett. These are the games that your star(s) has to win for you. Those brutal fifth-game-in-eight-nights sort of games when catch-and-shooters can find the target and your hustle guys are gassed are the ones that you need a star to take the team on his shoulders. Kevin Garnett did this last night for the Celtic in Game 1 of the Leastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Cleveland Lebronaliers. He scored 28, including the go-ahead shot with less than a minute to play, and dragged Paul Pierce and Ray Allen (who combined to shoot 2 for 18) to the finish line of last nights 76-72 Knicks/Heat throwback in Boston.

2. Big Z. Lebron gets all the credit. And deservedly so. He's the most indomitable physical force in professional basketball. However, Zydrunas Ilgauskas is a Cleveland institution and the only member of that city's basketball team that showed up to play last night. Z scored 22 points (out of his team's woeful 72), grabbed 12 boards, had two assists, two steals and two blocks. Drafted by the Cavs in 1996, the two time All-Star is quietly the glue keeping Lebron's teams together.

3. Kobe Bryant. He has been named the NBA's 2008 Most Valuable Player. Um, sure he was.

4. Lance Berkman. One night after the last remaining Killer B of the Houston Astros tied his career high of four hits he does one better by going 5-for-5 at the dish against the Nationals. Berkman had two doubles and two stolen bases. He's currently ranked (in the NL) 1st in RBI and runs, 2nd in HR and 3rd in batting average and slugging percentage. He's already got 6 steals (good for 10th in the NL) this season, which is quite impressive for someone who looks like he enjoys his fair share of BBQ down there in Texas.

5. The Democratic Party. Two more states held their primaries yesterday. Obama won going away in North Carolina and Clinton narrowly eked out a win in Indiana. It would seem that the Illinois Senator's lead is solidifying to the point where even the New York Senator's steely resolve won't be able to close the gap. Perhaps the DNP could finally begin to rally behind one candidate rather than continue to let the Party's two best hopes (unless someone else is waiting in the wings for just the right moment...) continue to cannibalize each other for the benefit of their Republican foes.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tuesday's Starting Five

1. Byron Scott's Halftime Speech. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Churchill's "Blood, Sweat and Tears" speech. These don't have anything on whatever it is that New Orleans Hornets coach Byron Scott tells his team during the halftime of playoff games. The Hornets have outscored the Mavs and the Spurs thus far in the playoffs during third quarter by a combined 201-156. They've won the quarter outright 5 of 7 times (the two losses by a combined 11 points, with one of the third quarters they dropped occurring in a game that they already led), including +12, +16 and +18 margins. Game 2 of the Bestern Conference semifinals was no different. The Hornets trailed the Spurs by a point when they exited the tunnel with whatever Coach Scott had told them still reverberating in their ears. With less than three minutes played in the second half Peja, Paul and co. had turned a one point deficit into a nine point lead. They would never look back.

2. Chris Paul. I know I won't shut up about it. I know I'm just beating a dead horse (ouch, too soon?) here. But, Chris Paul is otherworldly. He is as dominant right in this very moment as Jordan ever was at any given point during his long stretch of brilliance. Paul is as explosive as Isiah Thomas once was. Chris Paul is must-see television right now. Even the Spurs are watching him. They're watching him split double teams and cut through the paint like a knife through hot butter. He is out-quicking Tony Parker at the edge and brushing past Tim Duncan as if he were playing with in quicksand. On the off-chance that someone actually did manage to stop him before he got to the rim he would simply loft in a perfectly weighted floater or kick back out to a wide-open Peja. He scored nine points in the first half. And, then he got mad. You don't want to make CP3 angry. He was getting into it with Bruce Bowen. He's standing up to the the Spurs boogey-monster and showing him to be nothing more than another Boo Radley. He's old and living off a reputation. Paul finished with 30 points and 12 assists.

3. The Detroit Pistons. The sky seemed to be falling in Motown during the first half of Game 3 of their first round series against the Sixers. The season obituaries were writing themselves: "unmotivated group can't flip switch in clutch," "no more playoffs for passionless Pistons." But a funny thing happened on the way to firing Flip Saunders. They Pistons blew the doors of Philly in the second half of that game and soon wrapped up the series. They welcomed a more formidable opponent (Orlando) to the Palace in the next round and squashed them in Game One before grinding out (with the help of an egregious error by whomever runs the clock) Game Two last night.

4. Hedo Turkoglu. It's true that he did squander Orlando's last realistic chance to win this game. I'll give you that. He didn't need to rush that three-pointer. There was plenty of time and they didn't even need the three. But, it's also true that Hedo has shown he is a bottom-of-the-upper-echelon player in the NBA. He is a Turkish doppelganger of Rasheed Wallace. He's 6-feet-10-inches tall and weights 220 but he hits threes and can drive through the lane like a 3. He doesn't play in the post enough for someone his size but, man alive, he can hit those threes! He's got a less-than-intense look on his face most of the time. But he's a competitor and his team's endgame player. He is the Turkeed Walloglu.

Hedo's playoff numbers: 17.0 points / 7.0 rebounds / 5.4 assists / 0.9 steals
Rasheed's playoff numbers: 14.0 points / 5.9 rebounds / 2.0 assists / .9 steals

5. The Hornets Bandwagon. C'mon aboard! After literally months of being treated with less respect than the Chinatown Bus to Boston it's start to get a bit crowded. You might still be able to find a seat as long as you climb in before Wednesday's game.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Monday's Starting Five

1. Big Brown and Eight Belles. I know that the story for the next few days is going to be, legitimately, about the death of Eight Belles (who suffered a catastrophic injury to both front legs a short time after crossing the finish line in second place). And, it should be. It was terribly sad. The veterinarian that told viewers on NBC that the philly (the only female horse in the race) had been euthanized clearly had tears in his eyes. I'm not a) an animal doctor, b) a member of PETA reflexively using this to get my message out and c) a hard-core horse racing devotee trying to assuage fears that my sports is inhumane. I'm not any of those things so I'm just going to say that what happened was sad and that I do hope that it was as random and unpreventable as early reports have indicated. I'm going to say those two things and then try not to feel heartless when I start talking about the winner of the race. I'm going to try. Here goes: Big Brown was flat-out dominant. Starting out in the far 20-hole he had to run much farther than every other horse and he still won going away. There was a point early on when I thought that Big Brown's trip to the inside seemed to stall as the pack condensed. I thought that was it. I thought the distance to the rail combined with the distance to the front of the pack would prove insurmountable. Boy was I wrong. This horse came around the outside of the leaders like he was shot out of a cannon. And then he passed them. After the race was over he still seemed ready for more (which bodes well for the Belmont) and as if he would have won be an even greater stretch had the track allowed it. Sometimes you can get so caught up in rooting for 30-1 upset to come in that you lose sight of the fact that the favorite is the favorite for a reason. I know we've seen a few near misses in recent years but I've already talked myself into two things: 1) Big Brown will win the Triple Crown. 2) I need to bet more than five dollars on this horse at the Preakness.

2. The Big Three. With their backs to the wall (or more appropriately, with their backs to the banners that hang above their heads in the new Boston Garden), Garnett, Pierce and Allen emerged from their suddenly serious first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks. They thrashed the Hawks four times at home and got beat three times on the road. Up next, the Lebronaliers. It's worth noting at this point that the Cavs are the, in fact, the defending conference champs. They are better than the Hawks. This should be interesting. At least, I hope it is. I hope that Hawks series wasn't the wake-up call moment for the C's team who we'll now have to watch steamroll through to the Finals.

3. Kobe "I Make My Teammates Better "Bryant". This guy is good. He's great, even. Bryant is one of the best technicians on the court that I'll likely ever see in person. He is ruthless in attacking his opponents (and some would in attacking hotel employees). All that being said, he is not the MVP. This entire storyline about him "being a better teammate" and "making his teammates better" this season is as foolish as saying that I make my apartment cleaner. Yes, I do occassionally clean it (and yes, Kobe does sometimes have fine assist numbers) but at the end of the day I am the one also making it a mess. Kobe is not a better teammate this season. He just has better teammates. There is a big difference. Either way, Bryant scored 38 points yesterday in leading the Lakers over the Jazz. Although 21 of those came at the free throw line.

4. The New York Metropolitans "Opening Day" Lineup. It took 34 days after Opening Day. It took that long for the New York Mets to field the team that the planned on fielding this season. With ageless, pee-hands himself back in left field and Brian Schneider back from his thumb infection, the Mets threw their A-lineup (including Johan) against Dan Haren and the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday. And they won, taking the 3-game series from the high-flying, first place D-backs.

5. Chris Paul, David West and the New Orleans Hornets. Remember how the Mavericks were going to beat the Hornets? Remember how Jason Kidd's playoff experience was going to trump Chris Paul's lack thereof? Well it didn't. And, neither did the Spurs. At least in Game 1. Chris Paul was as dominant as he's been all year and David West scored a career playoff-high 30 points while helping (though most of the credit must go to Tyson Chandler) to completely shutter the doors on Tim Duncan, who had a career low 5 points and 3 rebounds. The Hornets just blew the doors off the Spurs after routing the Mavericks. They are for real! And, that MVP showdown between Kobe and CP3 in the conference finals seems to be around the corner.

Happy Cinco De Mayo

If you needed an excuse to drink a post-work margarita or order takeout from that great Mexican place near your house then you'll be pleased to know today is Cinco de Mayo.

Little known fact, today is NOT actually the Mexican independence day (which is in September), rather it is anniversary of a victory over French soldiers in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This battle only slowed down the French, though, who would occupy Mexico City just one year later. Moreover, Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated throughout Mexico. Although it is commemorated in the state of Puebla where the battle took place it is really an American holiday that spread from Southern California to tex-mex chain restaurants around the country. Americans took to the holiday because it brought together our disparate loves for salsa, pinatas and seeing the French lose at stuff.

Around the Internets

While this is pretty awesome and badass it makes me quite nervous that the best player,Cesc Fabregas, on my favorite EPL team, Arsenal, is now letting himself be set on fire. For Nike.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Thursday's Starting Five

1. Caron Butler. The Butler did last night. In the paint with a layup. Over the King. Like, he made that game-winning layup directly over Lebron who was guarding him like his size advantage was a size disadvantage. The Washington Wizards All-Star 3 had a HUGE game last night (a career play-off high 32 points, 9 boards and five assists) and picked up the slack while Gilbert was nattily dressed on the bench with a bone bruise in that really messed up knee of his.

2. Didier Drogba. The imposing striker from the Ivory Coast netted two goals for Chelski as they bested Liverpool to advance to the Champions League Final against Manchester United. It's an all England final as the two teams currently tied atop the Premiership with just two games remaining are also the last two teams still vying for Europe's top prize.

3. Paul Pierce. So, you see, shot attempts are far more likely to lead to points (which in turn often lead to wins) then gang signs. The Truth must have learned this fact between Games 4 and 5 of the Celtics series with the Hawks because he game out gunning (in a basketball way and not in a gang sign way) last night, taking eight shots in the first quarter as opposed to the 14 he took in the entirety of Game 4. When it was all said and done Pierce had scored 22 and the Cs won by 25.

4. Micah Owings. There were two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. There was a runner on the base paths and his team trailed by two runs. The manager looked down the bench toward his right-handed slugger, who'd hadn't been in that day's lineup, and gave him the nod. He strode to the plate, long ash-bat in tow. The opposing skipper, knowing the potency of his swing, went to his bullpen. The reliever trotted on to the field and fired his first bullet towards home plate. But before that speeding pea could reach the catcher's mitt it was turned around and deposited over the right field wall. The slugger trotted 'round the bases, tying the game with his final stomp on home plate. All was well in the world. Well, except for the fact that this slugger was a pitcher. Arizona Diamondback's all-around weapon Micah Owings hit a game-tying HR last night. The hit raised his batting average to .421 and his slugging percentage to .632. The guy has a higher batting average than ERA (3.48). I don't have the time to do the math there but I would have to guess that doesn't happen to often.

5. NBA Teams Looking to Hire A Coach. Larry Brown, Scott Skiles, Avery Johnson, Mike D'Antoni, George Karl, Rick Carlisle. These are all proven playoff-tested coaches who already have been and may soon be joining new teams. Somehow the coaching search has turned into a buyer's market. Which is good for the Knicks and maybe not so good for a neophyte like Mark Jackson.

Benched. Buzz Bissinger. The prize-winning author of Friday Night Lights (great book) and Three Nights in August (sycophantic Tony LaRussa slurp fest) was a guest on the aforementioned episode of Bob Costas' HBO show featuring a roundtable "discussion" about sports blogs and he went absolutely, positively Stephen-Jackson-firing-off-a-weapon-outside-of-a-strip-club-crazy, deciding to scream curses and rain senseless invective upon someone just trying to get a level-headed word in edgewise. That person being Will Leitch of Deadspin, who was invited into this ambush to represent, for these men of a certain age, all that is wrong with the world and this series of tubes that makes up Al Gore's internets.

Yikes. Someone needs to switch Buzz off the Buzz cola. And, someone also needs to get him to get his gynormous head out of his ass. He just went on television to say that he was better than people whom he perceives as foul-mouthed ranters with his very own foul-mouthed rant. Um, well played. You totally came off as the bigger and less-hateful person. The irony (and yes, Buzz, I have a degree in English and do understand what Irony is) is almost too good for W.C. Heinz novel.

For what it's worth, Will withstood the onslaught as best he could. He listened with gritted teeth the same way you have to listen to your racist uncle go off on a rant about how his life would be fine if not for [insert minority group most pertinent in your uncle's town or city] weren't taking all the jobs. Sometimes you just have to listen and nod because it's polite and easier than trying to fight stodgy, old-dog-old-tricks insanity with reason. Sometimes you just have to listen because you love your uncle (or just really liked Friday Night Lights) and even if you know that you're right you don't want to embarrass him any more than he is already embarrassing himself. You nod and choke back all the salient points and compound sentences forming in your younger and more nimble mind and you listen. Like Will did.

Not surprisingly, many people with more time, more establishment cred and a greater understanding of the stables nearby to Bissinger's home weighed in on this TV spot.