Another night, another game.
Another night, another game.
Okay, early one day, late the next day, early the next day. I’m really keeping you on your toes through this trek, aren’t I?
Anyway, I’m on a plane this morning early to do this all again in Utah, have fun.
Oh, and in case you missed it, here’s last night’s gamer, the second version after a somewhat choppy file-at-the-buzzer job.
Where was he?
I’m pretty sure you all noticed that not only did DeMar DeRozan play a season-low 23 minutes, scored a season-low four points and he was on the bench for the entire fourth quarter.
Not so much.
It was simply a matter that Leandro Barbosa was giving Toronto what it needed offence – if only as a diversion driving through the lane to create movement among the defenders – while not hurting anyone at the defensive end.
Yes, DeRozan was uninvolved for a lot of his 24 minutes but it’s got to be on him to be more assertive than he has been. It’s not going to be easy with Bargnani and Calderon dominating the offence in screen-roll but DeRozan could learn a lesson in getting open and creating stuff by watching how Barbosa plays.
Just what they needed
James Johnson gave them one of those relatively quiet, understated good games – 18 points and 10 rebounds along with solid defence – that makes you wonder why he can’t do something like that every night.
He hasn’t been able to – scouts refer to his “permanent” potential but if he does …
Well, if he does it solves a big problem because what they need from that spot is solid, not spectacular. The three isn’t a key cog in the offence now, and won’t be if Bargnani keeps going like he has but that kind of rebounding and defence is huge. Coaches notice that kind of thing and it’s why Johnson’s entrenched right now in that starting role.
Yeah, that was a potentially crippling turnover in the dying seconds off the in-bounds play that allowed the Suns to get within two.
How’d it happen?
Well, it happened because Steve Nash made a nice veteran move to grab a handful of Jose’s jersey. Sure he got away with it because it was discreet and sneaky and one of those plays some of the Raptors need to learn to do – and get away with – as the season progresses.
Had great sushi.
Watched a Grey Cup.
Not at the same time, mind you.
Was invited to a great sushi place just off the downtown core by Mike Weir one night and was entirely surprised by the calibre of the food in what has to be considered a non-traditional raw seafood area.
The Grey Cup?
Quag 1.0 and I (you have to have a long memory of fellow grunts to get that one) stumbled upon a saloon one day that not only had the Grey Cup on but allowed us to turn up the volume in one of the booths to listen to the dulcet tones of Chris Walby.
We were, of course, forced into a booth after a couple of patrons went berserk when the barman turned a New England Patriots game off one of the big screens hanging over the bar. Let me tell you, there are folks in Salt Lake who get downright ornery if you switch the NFL to a Grey Cup. Shocking, I know.
Anything happen in the State Of The Union address I should care about? Kinda missed it.
You know how sometimes cab drivers can just be chatty for the sake of being chatty, right? Droning on about nothing in particular as tired patrons in the back grunt at every utterance rather than become engaged in boring conversation.
Well, sometimes it’s different.
Get into a car after shootaround and the dude says, as a lot of them to do:
“Where you guys from.”
“Oh, you ever hear of a guy named George Chuvalo?”
“Well, I used to spar with guys who sparred with him, great fighter, could take a punch but I heard he’s still got all his faculties.”
“He does, very cool that you know him.”
“I used to work with an old ball player. Maybe you’ve heard of him.”
“Ellis Valentine. Used to play in Canada, worked with him refueling planes at Sky Harbour Airport until his pension kicked in.”
Yes, a not bad trip at all.
Mail? Sure, why not? Do it here. I’ll have all day Friday in Denver and a lot of Thursday to putter around on it and make my weekend easy.
Wow. Nine years and $214 million for Prince Fielder?
I’ve got to get his agent on staff, in a hurry.
Yikes. I guess Octogenarian Owner Mike Illitch is serious about wanting one of those World Series things but now they’ve got to get Miguel Cabrera to move to third and I’m pretty sure Fielder won’t be winning Gold Gloves over at first.
But with Victor Martinez out for the foreseeable future with a torn ACL, it does prove that the Tigers are willing to spend, even if they might not have been bidding against anyone else. I wonder, however, if this isn’t one of those big-splash signings that looks really good now but will be an albatross in a season or two.
I’m betting it is.
Flip Saunders gets whacked and all I can say to that is:
Seriously, that’s as dysfunctional a team as exists in the NBA today. Zany bigs like Andray Blatche and JaVale McGhee whose opinions of themselves far out-weigh their, um, abilities; a former No. 1 pick in John Wall who has yet to reach anything close to his potential; and a front office that just can’t seem to get it right no matter how hard they try.
Seriously, sometimes firing a guy can be doing him a favour and now Flip can go away from a few months, get the stench of the Wizards off his suits and come back and coach a more structured team of grownups next season or the season after.
How are things?
Warned you the time zone thing would mess me up; early one day, a tad late the next and who knows what you’ll get for the next day or two when this march continues on.
Remember Sunday when Dwane Casey hinted that he might have to change things up to find more “balance” on a team that’s had a few terrible starts lately?
Well, he’s still got that idea in his head and who knows who we’ll see when things tip off here tonight in Phoenix.
Now, listening to Dwane yesterday, he seemed okay with James Johnson at the three, I cannot imagine him making a move with DeRozan at the two and if you read today’s missive, he’s okay with Jerryd Bayless continuing on as he backup point guard.
What’s that leave?
Well, the bigs, obviously; unless there’s some dramatic move with DeRozan or something with Johnson but, again, that’s not the indication we got from Dwane yesterday.
Of course, Andrea Bargnani goes back into the starting lineup the second he’s ready (Tonight? Maybe) so who’s the other guy going to be?
Does Amir Johnson come out? Or Ed Davis? And if they do, who goes in? Aaron Gray?
It’ll be an interesting move, if one’s ultimately made. Davis had been just okay, with gusts to not okay; Amir’s had more average games than above-average ones of late and Gray is significantly limited offensively.
But the one thing Casey did say yesterday was that he’s starting to narrow down things to an eight- or nine-man rotation here a quarter into the season.
If I had to guess at a regular nine-man one now, it’d be Calderon, DeRozan, Johnson, Bargnani, Johnson, Bayless, Barbosa, Linas Kleiza and here’s the thing: They need another big and that seems to be Davis and then Gray by default and then what to you do with Gary Forbes and Rasual Butler? Use one and go with 10 men or use neither and stick with nine until foul trouble or injuries pop up?
Me? I go with 10 and give Forbes that last spot to see what you get.
Guess Alex Anthopoulos didn’t finish second the race for Omar Vizquel, eh?
Kidding. A bit.
Sure, signing the 44-year-old backup shortstop caused a few raised eyebrows but the one that got me yesterday was the three-year, $20-million extension for Brandon Morrow.
It keeps with Alex’s style (read Griff here for more of the background than I could give you now) and does give them right now a good No. 2, maybe No. 3 starter (depending on anything else happening) and you can’t have enough pitching depth.
I got to see Morrow pitch an awful lot last summer for some reason (guess I was on the same rotation as he was) and while he has some spectacular stuff, there have always been questions about his mental toughness and whether he can turn that stuff in to being a great pitcher.
Maybe he can, there is no disputing the raw natural ability, and now the Blue Jays, at a comparatively low price, have more than a while to find out.
And perhaps having his future settled will allow Morrow to pitch free and easy, to learn his craft as opposed to just using his talents and the greatness many expect from him will come to fruition.
Heaven knows the Blue Jays still could use some starting pitching help but locking up a talented young kid like Morrow is a significant winter move. Now it’s up to him to fully realize his potential.
Now this is comical.
The WWE – you know, the fake wrestling stuff that passes itself off as “entertainment” – had some theatrical performance at the US Airways Center on Monday night.
Well, you want to talk about a pretend sport that takes itself seriously?
We’re sitting in a hallway outside the visitors dressing room and practice court while the Raptors worked out, waiting to get in.
A rather burly security fellow was quite put out, getting the WWE’s security chief involved, and then told us we had to go sit in a stairwell lest we, you know, see two grabbling guys hanging out.
Thankfully, the good folks at the Raptors – hi Jim! – spoke some sense to someone, we got into a vestibule inside the practice facility rather than a dank hallway and the pretend athletes/actors were safe from the prying eyes of two Toronto writers.
Oh, yeah: The dressing room was marked “Male Talent” and it looked like all the grapplers were going to change – and likely rehearse – in the same place.
Yeah, that’s a global secret that needs to be kept: Wrestling’s Fake!
Hey, you need to check out Canada Basketball’s new web site. Looks very cool, lot of new multi-media stuff and it’s another step, albeit small, on the road back.
Time to temper expectations, this time in someone else’s words and not mine.
Now, we all know Solo went to the D League Jams and put up some numbers but, really, don’t get too excited about it. Dwane isn’t:
“The only problem in the D League? You don’t have enough quality big guys to go against in practice or in the games; he’s the biggest thing in the jungle, he needs to look people in the eye and be able to go against them in the post and that type of thing.”
So why send him?
“Again, he got some playing time with referees and that type of thing, which we didn’t have the luxury of giving him here.”
I’m going say this one more time:
If you go to Phoenix and don’t find you’re way to Pizzeria Bianco, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Try the Sonny Boy (mozzarella, very salty olives and a nice sweet salami) and wash it down with a Nimbus A-1 Pilsner.
You can thank me later.
And start a conversation with the one brother behind the bar, he’ll tell you about the time Steve Nash had his 37th birthday party there or the night Bosh, Bargnani and Calderon showed up.
Or the night Jerry Colangelo showed up with the World Series trophy.
Sometimes a quiet late afternoon’s a good thing.
Told you I had no clue about time zones and when things would get done here.
Who’s fault is it?
There is no doubt the Raptors offence struggles without Andrea Bargnani but, really.
There is very little creativity, far too much one-on-one play and precious little off-the-ball movement and just no flow.
That’s on everyone, the coaches and the players and it’s verging on unwatchable. Not sure who’s more to blame, I know Dwane wants more stuff to happen, we’ve seen sets in the season where it does but unless it rapidly improves, we’re in for another KO year and one of us is going to stick a pin in his eye about the 25th game of the season.
And we don’t want that, do we?
What’d we find out?
Not much, really.
But if there’s a good sign, it’s that Linas Kleiza, playing his eighth game in about a calendar year, looked better than he has.
He was as good at 30 minutes as he’s been at 17 and he actually made some shots. Now, a lot of what happened late in the fourth quarter doesn’t count because the game was out of hand but Kleiza at least looked a bit more fluid. Now, if he can string together two or three games like that, there’d be reason for optimism.
Start of the story
There’ll be more on The Regend but …
Man, does Dwane (heart) Reggie.
Check this out:
“Reggie is one of my all-time favourites. I love him, he’s like a son, I fought for him to make the team in Seattle.
He was undrafted, we brought him in, I got in an argument with Wally Walker (the Seattle’s GM) that day when he was deciding who he was going to cut. I said, ‘look, we have nobody on our roster like this guy, he’s fearless, he wins every one on one drill, he has a nose for the basketball.’
I always say there’s a lot of things you have to have in basketball but one of the most important (is) you have to have an act. He has act; he gets away with it. I love him … but he has an act. He can hold all day long in the paint and the referee is going to call it on the next guy. He’s good at it.”
And he’s right. Reggie may be little more than a one trick pony but, man, is he good at that trick.
And … Idle thoughts of an addled mind after a long flight delay …
I’m not entirely sure why but getting carded in an airport bar kind of makes me feel good. Not young, just good. And when you can laugh with the barmaid about being old enough to be her dad, it’s cool.
Oh, and you get to hang with Gumby on some Concourse Stool and chat with Our New Friend Stefanie The School Teacher From Half Moon Bay and learn that, yes, there are Americans who think Newt’s a dope not intelligent enough to lead the free world and you hope the new friend has some friends who don’t allow this to happen.
Oh, and many of the problems with the U.S. public school system stem from too many districts with too many superintendents wasting too much funding.
Just in case you were wondering.
Right. We’re in Phoenix. And that means the possibility of a trip to Cooperstown.
No, not a flight, a walk behind the arena to a joint owned by this guy.
It may be a case of semantics – and I would venture that it is – but he told me before the game that his agent never got a contract offer from the Raptors and it became apparent that he move on.
Now, I’m also told by people I trust in the organization now that there was a conscious decision made to move on last summer, that they were quite okay with Ed Davis taking Reggie’s minutes to see what the kid got and, under different circumstances, they would have wanted him back. But the roster, the time, the future weren’t right and things had to happen as they did.
But when I asked Reggie whether he was surprised about not being back, here’s the transcript:
“Aaaaahhhhhh. I wasn’t, just listening to my agent, there was nothing close at all, you know. Umm, it wasn’t nothing close at all. I wasn’t offered no contract.
I was more surprised than, um, yeah, I was more surprised. I was kind of surprised just knowing that I played for coach Casey in my younger days and just knowing what kind of impact he had on me when I first came in the league because him and coach Nate had such an impact on my career.”
And then a wee bit later:
“I’m kind of happy I was able to answer this question, that way people on the tweets don’t have to ask me why I’m not back.
“It’s cool, though. They wanted to go a different direction; they got some great players on their team that they picked up this year. They got some good veterans on their team.”
Not sure “great” is the adjective I’d use, perhaps “suitable for the season” is the right way to put it.
Oh yeah, you ask Sandra, who’s filling glasses on the other side of the LAX stool, the oddest thing she’s ever seen and …
“A guy, about 6-5 with a full beard dressed like a woman wearing a v-neck dress with chest hair out to there. A whole bar of guys were scared.”
And, undoubtedly, scarred.
Yeah, it was some night.
Hmm. Pats-Giants. Told you so. And if you think there’s any way in the world that field goal kicker or kick returner can be back in Baltimore or San Francisco next year, I think you’re wrong.
Here’s a quick one probably gives short shrift to a story that deserves more.
Joe Paterno is dead, as we all know, the victim of the hell that is cancer such a short time after he was fired from his job.
It was funny, being in the United States when the news broke and listening to him lionized by a dozens of people on ESPN on Sunday morning.
Now, I don’t know Joe Paterno from Adam, I have no idea what kind of man he was, what he did for the kids who were in his charge for the decades he was a head football coach. I do know that unspeakable horrors happened on his watch and that he either knowingly turned a blind eye to them or simply had no control over what went on. Both of which are, in my mind, in excusable.
I’m sure he did many good things in his life, taught kids good life’s lessons, was part of a de facto professional sports team that sent many young men onto greatness and success in a variety of fields totally unrelated to football.
But as I was listening to all those tributes, and listening to men tell me how Joe Paterno should not be judged by what we found out in the last few months, one thing stuck in my craw:
Why not? Why not take what happened recently and weigh it against a life’s work and make up our own mind what we think of the man.
Joe Paterno unquestionably did some good and honourable things while coaching football. And some horrid things happened at the same time. He was good; he was flawed; I think we need to hold off the lionization.
Ready to go?
All right, folks, here’s the end of the weekend stuff.
Now, we’re on Pacific time today with a night flight to Phoenix and then a week of mountain time. I have no clue when I’ll get the daily fare up but it’ll get there sometime.
For now … enjoy this until IGBT about 3:15 East.
Q: Hello... Who would you rather have...Felton (Barbara?) and Crawford, or Calderon and Forbes?
Also, since you are near Seattle, how about a little Hendrix?
Bob E, Kanata
A: Can I have Calderon and Crawford? I’d probably take the more versatile, younger two but could live with both.
I wish I was near Seattle because then I’d go to Seattle, maybe take in the Hendrix museum (perhaps the best thing Paul Allen’s done) before I wandered through the Pike market on my way to the Kells for an hour or two. Back through the market, maybe pick up some trinkets from the artists before a stop at the Elliott Bay Book Store, one of the best I’ve ever been in. Oh yeah, then the Metropolitan Grill for a hunk of red meat while on a stool.
Yeah, I miss Seattle. Like you don’t know.
Q: Hello Doug! You've seen it all. And then some. And Ed Davis' shots do indeed challenge the retinas. So, here's an idea for a list: Top 5 Retina Burning Things You've Been A Witness to while reporting on the NBA - league-wide if you like. And then as an antidote, how about The Top 5 Things Of Beauty You Could Watch Over And Over? Again, league-wide, any team, any era. Just in case the Raptors haven't provided enough fodder! Cheers!
Lorie P, London
A: I try to block out all the ugliness but some things just stay with you:
Shaq shooting free throws
It’s like it hurt him to take – and miss – them.
Shawn Marion jump shots
It’s like it hurts me to watch ‘em kind of flung toward the basket. But they are effective.
Oak leading the fast break
Mostly because I fear for the people sitting in the second row not paying attention.
Any wing isolation play with eight other guys standing around watching.
Yawn. Treble yawn. It’s not what the game is. Nor should it ever be.
It was barely tolerable when he was good and young; now it’s just tiresome.
Things I could watch all day?
Wow. Far easier.
Magic leading the break.
You always wondered whether he’d throw a no-look to Worthy or Cooper trailing or find Kareem down the lane.
Steve Nash throwing a cross-court bounce pass in transition.
It’s like athleticism and mathematics how he finds the smallest of openings.
Ray Allen coming off a screen and taking a three-pointer shot.
When they come to paint the prettiest picture of the game in this era, that might be it.
Kobe with the ball in his hands, team down one, five seconds left.
He may not make the shot but he’s going to take it and I guarantee you the form will be perfect.
Tim Duncan’s bank shot.
They don’t call him The Big Fundamental for nothing. Bet he could retire, sit for 15 years doing nothing and make eight out of 10.
Q: Hey Doug: Over the years, your blog has included several 'serious' moments: the passing of Sarah Burke, MLK Day, Canada Day, to mention a few. Each time, you express your thoughts and feelings (and those of many of your readers, no doubt) so eloquently.
There are many reasons why I am a daily visitor to your blog, but one of the highlights is when these sorts of 'items' appear - I am always deeply moved.
So, to make this a question, we all know that Math was probably your worst subject in school. Was English your best? Or at least your favourite?
Thank you for doing everything that you do for us.
Tim H, Windsor
A: Funny thing? I got far better marks in high school in math than English and was, in fact, asked to perhaps consider a technical elective like drafting or something instead of English.
Not sure if there was a lack of inspiration from rather dour English teachers or a missing challenge or whatever but English and I didn’t get along in school. Math and I weren’t best of friends but we were closer.
Weird how things turnout, no?
Q: Hi, Doug. What are the benefits and costs of the "no layups" policy so far?
Eric H, Broad Cove, NS
A: Since it’s a theory impossible to make work 100 per cent of the time, not really sure you can say anything definite. In theory, the benefit would be not giving up the easiest of baskets (layups) and the cost would be getting drilled by a hot three-point shooting team.
Q: After watching Coach Casey several times in "Raptors Today" I find that he is very engaging with the media. I know you liked Sam's snark and wit, but is Casey the most engaging coach you have seen with the Raptors?
Dave B, Cornwall
A: He is very engaging, personable and intelligent. He’s patient with questions that some may think are out of line or, well, silly, and he’s taken his time to learn who we all are and what we do, which is a very nice thing to do.
Total package? Yeah, he could very well be at the top of the list but each of them were interesting in their own ways.
Q: Hi Doug, Love the blog...it’s a daily read. More than a question, I have a complaint for the tall foreheads there at the star. For the pucks, If you're on the main sports page or the hockey page, there is a tab you can hit on for the overall standings. For us basketball fans, NO tab. You have to go 2 or 3 levels before you find the page that allows you to pull up the NBA standing. Think someone there is capable of adding a tab so standings can be at our fingertips. Thanks Doug.
Scott M, Bradford
A: Boss? You reading this? The Irregulars have spoken; can someone get on this?
Seriously, I’ll send this along to people who might be able to fix it far more capably than I.
Okay folks. I’m on a very long airplane ride that began early this morning, you have fun with this and I’ll check in from Los Angeles when I get a chance.
But first … RIP.
Q: Dear Doug: Thank you for putting a perspective on what matters with your pieces on the legacy of MLK and on Ali at 70. I recall that a few years ago, you wrote that when the Raps were in Memphis, there was trip to the King museum, and the only player who joined Smitch was Matt Bonner.
How would you assess the awareness of the legacy of these individuals together with Russell, Jabbar, Embry, et. al, among the members of the current team? What players, if any, are carrying the torch?
Frank B, Toronto
A: If I remember correctly, there were a couple of other players who went to, I believe they were Araujo and Jose but I could be mistaken. It was a fine idea by Rob Babcock that was kind of telling for the absenteeism rate.
As for this current group, I’m not sure there’s anyone on the roster who will pay more than lip service to those who sacrificed or suffered before them and, sadly, I believe that to be the case throughout professional sports. There are some but not nearly enough and I think one of the things this organization should do the first day of every training camp is invite Wayne back to speak to them and provide some historical context to how they have been able to achieve the level of fame and wealth they have.
Dwane Casey is another pioneer, he grew up in the south in an era where he couldn’t go in the same doors or sit at the same tables as white people and he was, I believe, the fifth or sixth African-American player in the University of Kentucky history.
Q: Hi DS. In reading Wednesday's blog, you mentioned the following:
We’ve known from the very start of training camp that small forward was going to be an issue. There isn’t anyone on the roster that can play the spot like it should be played – with a combination of good shooting, the ability to defend, the skills to break his man down off the dribble – and it’s probably going to be like that for the entire season.
If you could clone someone from Raptor's past to take on this role, who would it be?
Simone S, Toronto
A: Oh, a young VC, to be sure. Imagine him with the space and shooting spots that are created by a very good point guard-power forward high screen-roll duo? But, with the way the small forwards on this group get open looks, wouldn’t Mo Pete be rather successful? I’d want Vince but would take Mo or Donyell Marshall if you thought he was a three and not a four.
Q: What are the feelings around the Raps 'tall foreheads' that JV is in a Raps uniform next year, 90-10, better? There has been relative confidence around us Raps fans, but we only need look at the situation with the Timberwolves and Ricky Rubio, they waited TWO full seasons!
Nick M, Hamilton
A: Apples and oranges. Rubio had a contract that called for him to stay in Spain for three years, he got out early; Valanciuna’s Lithuania deal only covers this season and it’s 99.9999999 per cent certain he’ll be here in the fall.
And, yes, that means there’s a chance he won’t for all you movie buffs.
Q: Hey Doug. So the GM survey came out recently at NBA.com. Always a fun little read, but no doubt to be taken with a grain of salt.
Some Valanciunas buzz in the Rookie/International section and some mentions here or there of Bargnani, DeMar and Jose. But here is the result that stumped me: some poor sod voted the Raptors as 'The Most Exciting Team to Watch.' This doesn't look like the worst Raptors squad ever assembled, but as present talent levels are concerned, I'm not sure why someone would rather tune in to the HOTH any given night than say, Miami, either LA team, OKC... I mean, we could go on and on here. So what gives? I know it was only one opposing GMs opinion (BC couldn't pick his own team), but that's a bit, er... optimistic.
Want to take a guess at which GM might have voted our way? My thought is it has to have been one of the four Atlantic division rivals who have watched us grow in recent years.
Anyways, hope you can extrapolate something out of this.
Andrew P, Toronto
A: Okay, I’m going to debunk the myth of these polls and surveys a little bit.
Now, I’m not saying this happens all over the league and I know there are GMs who take it very seriously. I also know there might be a GM or two who slough the thing off on an assistant, a member of the media relations staff or something like that.
It’s like those silly player surveys you see, where such and such is the “worst” this or the “best” that. I know people who have conducted more than a few of them on a freelance basis and what generally happens is that a player will have no idea how to answer one but if you tell him “so-and-so said this” or “so-and-so might be someone to consider” they will often say, “yeah, let’s go with him.” So take them for what they are, quasi-interesting conversation pieces rather than definitive surveys.
Once more, into the breach.
Yes, it’s Friday, we have all kinds of NBA stuff in the paper thanks to Nothin’ But Net so we’ll branch out a little bit here, if you don’t mind.
If you do, scroll down; way down.
I didn’t know Sarah Burke, never spoke to her, never saw her compete.
Yet why do I feel a sense of loss now with news of her tragic passing from the injuries sustained in a freestyle skiing training accident?
Because, like you, it is gut-wrenching to hear such news about athletes who push themselves to the limits of their skills in sports that too many of us don’t fully understand or appreciate.
They train and compete harder than any of us can possibly imagine and for what? Mostly for a sense of personal accomplishment; it certainly isn’t for great riches or incredible adulation or anything other than the true love of their sport.
Those of us who are closely associated with professional athletes know the mercenary side of them, they are richly rewarded for their skills and that all too often brings a skewed sense of entitlement that is off-putting in a large measure. Not all of them are like that, of course, but too many are.
But women like Burke, and the hundreds and hundreds of virtually anonymous but brilliantly skilled so-called amateur athletes who push themselves for little more than the love of competition and their sport are what the games should be about.
The world needs women and athletes like Burke to remind us of people who play games and compete in individual sports simply because they love them. Those are the ones we should know more about, ones we should hold up as shining examples of dedication to a craft that goes beyond personal gain.
The world of sports – and the world in general by all accounts – is a darker place now with her death.
I didn’t know her but I admire her.
And all others like her.
So, did you watch Lakers-Heat at all last night?
Only saw highlights here – life got in the way – but I guess the age-old debate would be raging in a few locales:
Kobe or Lebron?
Tough one, no doubt. Kobe’s got the rings, LeBron’s won about five in a row of the head-to-head duels that really don’t mean anything.
Without getting into specifics too much, I’m just going to throw this out there and see what you think:
Both are brilliant players and great athletes and incredible competitors but there just seems to be a more nuanced game to Bryant than there is to James.
He’s just better and more fun to watch; more fluid, less bullish, his jump shot is as consistent as any I’ve ever seen. He plays the game more in the way I would like to see it played and I guess that’s the reason I’d rather sit and watch a Laker game than a Heat game.
Mail? Last shot. Busy day when we land in L.A. tomorrow (the HOTH are practicing out there after an overnight flight so it’s LAX to UCLA) so today might be the lone day to get tomorrow’s done and set up Sunday’s to finish on the plane.
It’s what we’ve done here each week to usurp my friend Magic 8-ball and there’s no sense stopping now, is there?
Baltimore at New England
Remember early in the season – especially after that loss in Buffalo – when the people were writing off the Pats?
Seems kind of silly now, doesn’t it?
They’ve kind of figured out the defensive issues that plagued them, Tom Brady is playing at such a crazily-high level that I’m surprised no one’s comparing him to Tebow and Bill Belichik may be a hoodie-wearing-fun-sapping-sourpus-extraordinaire but the guy seems to come up with plans to maximize the talent available.
The Ravens? They can look like world-beaters one week and rank amateurs the next; Ray Lewis is waaaaaaaaaay to zany intense for me and if Joe Flacco is a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl something is terribly wrong with the world.
Pats, by a mile.
NY Giants at San Francisco
Here’s the thing: Last Saturday, with about six minutes left in the Niners-Saints game, I had to go courtside at the United Centre and missed all the San Fran histrionics. Too bad, looked like a rather wild finish in hindsight. And there is no disputing how good that defence is, how effectively they can run the ball and if pours rain at Kezar Stadium (yeah, I’m dating myself a bit) that has to be good for the home side, no?
And here’s the big butt.
Last Sunday, I did get to sit around and watch Eli Manning and his team dismantle a not bad Packers squad and if you had to pick a quarterback of these four left to handle elements and win a big game, you’d go with Manning, I would think. The guy is just good.
Giants, but it’ll be close.
And that gives us Pats-Giants in the Super Bowl and it’ll be a contest who see who’s the most disagreeable in the week leading up to the game, Coughlin or Belichik. Coach Hoodie will win.
Pucks 4, Wilds 1
World’s a safer place today.
Right, the Raptors.
Hardly anything of substance yesterday; Bayless may play, it’s a work in progress, they’re getting better but not there yet.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
As you know, I have an affinity, borne of simply knowing an old friend in Ghana, for the Black Stars, who have made it to the final eight times but haven’t won one in a while.
I’m worried about the dastardly Ivory Coasts, they’re probably the favourites going in but I need to find my Black Stars cap around here and carry it with me on the road.
Who you got?
Doug Smith has been a sportswriter for more than 30 years, a journey that's included seven Olympic Games, numerous and varied championships and more dreary regular season games than he'd care to remember. Here, he'll talk about them all, as well as current events and pop culture. (Just don’t ask him about music nowadays — it's not his cup of tea).