Thursday, January 22, 2009

Friday's Starting Five

1. The Reigning Champs. It was business as usual for the two squads who faced off in the NBA Finals last night. Both played on national television and both won. The Lakers rolled in a laugher over the visiting Wizards and the Celtics won convincingly on the road in Orlando. After coming out the gates red-hot this season, both teams have cooled slightly. But not too much. You'd be hard pressed not to slot either into the conference championships right now.

2. Jeff Kent. Renowned as much for his surliness as his unprecedented power at second base, Kent announced his retirement yesterday after 17 seasons in the Big Leagues. The Californian broke into the Majors with the Blue Jays before being traded to the Mets for David Cone in 1992. The leading home run hitter at his position, eventually settled in his home state. He won an NL MVP Award with the Giants in 2000 and famously feuded with Barry Bonds. At the time, this was considered a deficiency of Kent's. But, in hindsight, was it really that weird that he didn't get along with Baroid? If anything, that reflects well upon him. After battling injuries with the Dodgers last season he decided to hang 'em up. He gave a shockingly interesting and emotional retirement speech yesterday. It's worth checking out if you can find it on the interwebs.

3. West Virginia Mountaineers. First, the world unearths the long-lost Kevin Pittsnogle and then the Mountaineers pull off a huge hoops upset. Coincidence? I think not. The No. 14 ranked Georgetown Hoyas were pittsnogled in DC last night by WVU, who forced 14 turnovers. And Bob Huggins' squad from Morgantown didn't just win. They stomped Georgetown, 75-58. It was the worst beating that Hoya coach John Thomspon III had presided over since his debut game. Newark, NJ-native Da'Sean Butler netted 27 for WVU to go with 8 rebounds and 4 steals.

4. New Jersey Institute of Technology. The last time they won was February 2007. Eddy Curry was being touted as an All-Star in February 2007. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then. Except for one thing, the NJIT Highlanders had not won a basketball game. Until last night. By beating the team from Bryant University, the Highlanders ended their 51-game losing streak. The streak was, and may forever be, a record for Division 1 hoops.

5. Dwight Howard. It's good for the NBA that Dwight Howard has agreed to defend his Slam Dunk title this year during the All-Star Extravaganza in Phoenix. Most superstars (and, D12 is certainly that) opt out once they get famous. Kobe did. Lebron did. Vince Carter did. But, Howard hasn't. In part, this is why he broke the record for most votes recieved in All-Star balloting by the fans. Even more than Yao, who has the better part of a continent voting for him each year, and more than Vince Carter, who has the...uh... Actually I have no idea from what depths the hordes that annually vote for Vince emerge from each year. What is wrong with them?

Benched. Alonzo Mourning. In case you were wondering, which you weren't, Mourning wants you to know that he is seriously retiring from professional basketball. Nevermind that he hasn't actually participated in a game in more than a year. And that we already knew he was retired because he told us before last season that he was retiring at the end of the campaign. Nevermind that. The guy needed to hold a press conference. While his struggle against kidney disease has been inspiring to many people in similar straits and his persistence in the face of adversity is admirable, there is no doubt that this guy has an epic sense of self-entitlement and looks to make himself the center of attention whenever possible. The "retirement" press conference that he held yesterday is no different. No one thought he was coming back to play for the Heat or anyone else. Last Decemeber, Zo tore his knee all to pieces in a game against the Hawks. After the game, when asked why he refused to be stretchered off the court he replied, "That's not the way I envisioned myself walking off the court for the last time in my career." Does that sound like a guy who might not be coming back? Nope. Especially not when he told everyone with a microphone or a pen during last preseason that he retiring at the end of last season regardless of its outcome. Again, I get that his overcoming health problems is noteworthy. But this guy is a bad dude. He bailed on the Nets because he wasn't immediately put into the starting lineup after returning from his first retirement and then never reported to Toronto after being traded. And this was after the guy openly campaigned to be shipped out of town! When he has wanted to play then he has played at a very high level but he has shown zero professionalism when he wasn't in a situation that he deemed acceptable. Good riddance.

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