It's fun watching the true greats master their craft
Here’s one for you:
How good is Roger Federer?
I was lounging around a bit Sunday morning with the Wimbledon final on as white noise in the background and all of a sudden I was drawn into it totally, amazed by the mastery of Federer and what he does in his sport.
There is no real sense in comparing athletes of different eras or different sports – it’s good bar stool talk and a solid discussion-generator but it’s somewhat pointless – but I will say this.
I think you could make the case that we have seen in Federer the absolute greatest. He is beating time and all comers, he is a master at his craft without much pomp, he is beauty rather than brawn and that’s always more alluring to me.
He is 30, practically geriatric in the world of professional tennis, yet he awakens today as the No. 1 player in the world, with his seventh Wimbledon title, his 17th Grand Slam and his first tennis major since 2010 to put on his mantle.
I don’t know much about the game, actually, I tend to catch the final weeks of Wimbledon, the French Open and U.S. Open, so my knowledge of the intricacies of Federer’s game is quite limited.
But I do know greatness when I see it, do know when I am watching someone do something at the absolute top of his game and what he’s accomplished is nothing short of amazing.
As I mentioned, it’s folly to compare sports and athletes and eras.
But there’s this:
In the individual sports, and I guess you could even put team sports in there as well, we might have lived through a career that will be unmatched in the annals of time.
Yes, others have come at him – Nadal and Djokovic chief among them – and there was Sampras and Laver and all the rest of them but there is just something about Federer that makes him stand out.
It’s his longevity, as silly as that sounds about a guy who’s 30; it’s his calm and his class and the way he surgically wins matches with guile and drop shots and little slices rather than brute strength.
Is he the greatest individual sport athlete of all time?
If he isn’t, he’s in the discussion.
No, they don’t make ‘em like McHale’s Navy anymore, do they?
I’ve to put that sitcom near the top of the list of the oldies, not sure it got the recognition it deserves; where do you put it?
And by “you” I mean Irregulars Of A Certain Vintage who can remember it.
Yes, Aaron Gray is coming back (Marc Stein got it from his agent Saturday night) and it’s a two-year deal although the second’s at his option.
Not big money – the first year is comparable to the $2.5 million he made last season – and he is well thought of by the coaching staff.
He sets good screens, realizes his limitations offensively and just goes about his business; solid pro to have around.
Now, thing I wonder about – and have since this possibility existed – is that it’s awfully crowded up front.
You’ve got five bigs who could legitimately expect to play in Valanciunas, Bargnani, Gray, Davis and Amir Johnson and that’s a lot especially when you have a bit of an option of moving Kleiza to a stretch four in some matchups.
I figure this move isn’t necessarily a precursor to another but it’s going to be a delicate balancing act if they begin the season with all of them in the fold.
You would think this might diminish the chance of Jamaal Magloire returning as well but that possibility will improve if Bryan moves out one of his excess bigs – and I maintain that’s been Johnson and Davis since the end of last season.
Only in Canada could you be sitting on a stool at 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 7 and divert your eyes from Red Sox-Yankees and see someone named Stajan score for the Leaves on some goaler named Raycroft from the Coloradoes.
Surely to goodness there was something more pertinent on somewhere? Oh, wait, it’s the pucks and Canada. Wrong.
Hey, did you hear?
Dwight Howard might be getting traded.
Not a bad showing at all by the Canadian men’s under-17 team at the world championships that just finished up in Lithuania.
They went 5-3 overall, finished fifth after beating Argentina in their final game and got some valuable experience that should help them greatly as they proceed through the junior ranks to perhaps the senior men’s team.
Thanks to FIBA here’s a little video snippet.
This puts the lid on the significant international season for Canada – there is the Olympics left for the women, of course – and it was a solid summer.
The junior men and women both qualified for next year’s world championships, the senior women got Canada back to the Olympic and the senior men … well, there wasn’t a senior men’s team and that’s cool, no need to do anything with nothing to play for. It’s next year that they have to hit the ground running with the qualification process for 2014 world championships.
I’ve got about a billion Olympic things to do this week and I know you and the gang are headed to Vegas for a little training camp and then Summer League so if you’re going to do anything roster-wise, can you do it early in the week?
So, the best basketball story of the weekend?
It’s easily Nigeria beating Dominican Republic on Sunday night to get the final berth in the London Olympics.
But the magnitude of Nigeria’s efforts at the final qualifier cannot be under-stated.
The beat Lithuania in the first round, Greece in a win-or-go home game and then the Dominican with everything on the line.
It’s a huge statement – they have at times dominated the African competition, but this is the first time they’ve taken on traditional globally good teams and come out on top.
I was e-mailing briefly with Masai Ujiri after the win over Greece to offer my congratulations and he was full of pride at that point. Having been instrumental is developing the sport in his country, Masai’s been directly involved in getting these kids to American schools and giving them the opportunity to be the best they can.
It’s a great thing that’s happened – Russia and Lithuania got the other two London berths, by the way – and I can’t wait to see the first game Nigeria plays at the Olympics.