Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Lebron James. The first quarter of last night's Hawks at Lebronaliers game showcased why Lebron James is the 2008-2009 NBA MVP. And why Kobe Bryant is not. While Kobe's johnny-come-lately faux selflessness often consists of him reigning himself in during the "meaningless" early stages of a game, LBJ comes out with chalk flying and guns blazing. He doesn't force his teammates to take shots in the first quarter. He challenges them to keep pace with him. And, that is leadership. It's also how you win playoff games against good teams. LBJ opened the scoring in last night's second round series-opening game against the Hawks with a dunk. He went on to score 16 of his team's 25 first-quarter points. He scored 34 points through three quarters as CLE built a 16-point bulge heading into the final quarter. The King didn't even need to attempt a shot in the fourth as Cleveland cruised to a 99-72 victory.

2. Carmelo Anthony. His relative anonymity might have something to do with his address in Denver. It might have something to do with his previous hair style. Whatever the season, Anthony doesn't get the credit he deserves. Leading 1-0 in their series with the Mavs, the Nuggets held a three-point lead heading into the fourth quarter of Game 2. When sneakers squeaked their first fourth quarter squeaks on the hardwood, this game was still up for grabs. And that's precisely when the No. 3 pick in the heralded 2003 draft class grabbed it. Of the first 13 points scored by either team in the fourth quarter, 'Melo had nine of them. Two each were scored by a teammate and an opponent. Thanks to Anthony, the Nuggets' lead had ballooned to 12 points in less than four minutes. And the game was won shortly thereafter.

3. The Boston Red Sox. Last weekend they swept the Yankees at Fenway. This week they swept them in the new Yankee Stadium. Next week? The Sox plan on taking three of the three from the pinstripers on the moon. Sitting at 17-10, they have the second-best record in the American League (behind the Toronto Blue Jays). The starting rotation has 12 of the team's 17 wins and Jason Bay, Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell each has a +.300 batting average and more than 20 RBI.

4. Manchester United. The Red Devils defeated Arsenal yesterday to advance to the UEFA Champions League Final for the second straight season. They built upon their 1-0 lead from the first leg and won the two-game affair with relative ease, given the class of the opposition. It was a heartbreaking defeat for Arsene Wenger's young gunners. And even gave an Arsenal supporter cause to hang himself. United will meet the winner of today's Chelsea/Barcelona contest in the UCL Final.

5. The Los Angeles Dodgers. Last night's 3-1 victory over Diamondbacks in Chavez Ravine ran the Dodgers home record to 12-0. This ties the 1911 Detroit Tigers for the best home start in Big League history. Those Tigers had a guy named Ty Cobb. These Dodgers have a guy named Manny Ramirez. Both are polarizing figures. And both are among the greatest to ever play this bat and ball game. Sporting a Big League-best 20-8 record, LA already has a 5.5 game lead in the NL West and looks likely to steamroll their way to the division crown. In spite of the time zones, it's getting late early out west.

Benched. Brett Favre. Seriously? This guy's retirements are less dependable than my promises to post on this website each day. I think that we, collectively as football fans, gave this guy the benefit of the doubt when last season began. We blamed the Packers management for much of the offseason weirdness. And tried to pretend that he was coming back because of his love for the game rather than to prove a point to his old boss. Even non-Jets fans got behind his return. We all tried to believe that he hadn't been reduced to another pitchman for mediocre blue jeans. But, ultimately he let us all down (although the Jets did a good job of getting our hopes up in the first half of the season). And then he retired again. As a Jets fan, I didn't even want him back after the way last season ended. Not because I didn't think he was as capable as Kellen Clemens or Bret Ratliff - the Jets other options at the time. I didn't want him back because he's clearly just playing for himself. And that doesn't work in the long run. At some point in a winning season, players must dig deeper than is comfortable and/or be willing to sacrifice some of their ego for the sake of their teammates and fans. Brett Favre no longer seems capable of those things. He's playing for himself. When thinking of him as just another a middle-aged member of the American work force, I applaud his willingness to keep accepting pay checks as long as they're being offered. When I think of him dominating the airwaves of ESPN and sports radio and being under center for my football team, I just want him to go away. And not go to Minnesota, where he is rumored to be headed to play next season. Favre's myopic me-first view of the NFL has even worn thin on the some of the folks at Sports Illustrated.