Dustin Johnson hosed at end of PGA Championship.

Today’s final round of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, golf’s final major of the season, was an exciting one. Martin Kaymer, Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jason Dufner, Steve Elkington, and Dustin Johnson were all clamoring for the lead but one by one they fell short as they neared the end of the round. It made for a compelling afternoon of golf. With a hole to play, Dustin Johnson was at -12 while Kaymer and Watson sat in the clubhouse at -11. It was Johnson’s tournament to lose and a par would seal the deal. Unfortunately, he launched his tee shot at the par 4 18th deep into the gallery, leaving him with a shot that could best be described as claustrophobic as the fans crowded around him. His ball had found a hittable lie amid sand and trampled grass, but that didn’t stop Johnson from missing the green to the left and finishing with a bogey, dropping him into a three man playoff with Watson and Kaymer. Read More…

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Raptors, Nets to play in London…twice!

And not only that, they are playing the games on back-to-back nights, March 4th and 5th. I don’t think this makes any sense. Sure, if you’re going to send the same two teams to London to play a couple of games, it might as well be on consecutive nights. But why have the same pair of teams play in both of the games? And why in the world would you send the New Jersey Nets and Toronto Raptors? The fans who live in New Jersey and Toronto don’t go to the games themselves to begin with. Why would someone in London, England want to go to two games between the Nets and Raptors? Neither team has an all-star player and it’s unlikely that either one will make the playoffs. Read More…

Was that football I saw on TV last night?

Yes it was; the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys played the Hall of Fame Game last night. And you know what? As ready as I am for high school football, UNA football, college football, NFL football, and fantasy football, I’m not about to watch it on TV and I’m also not even going to bother looking up the score of last night’s game. Not when it’s 100 degrees outside and it’s the beginning of August! It’s just too early to think about it, even if I did renew my Yahoo! Sports fantasy football league when registration opened in JUNE.

Now, I’m probably going to come off sounding really weird, but I’m kind of OCD when it comes to the seasons. For example, I only listen to certain music at certain times of the year like U2’s “October” album, which I only listen to from October to December of each year. Why do I do that? I guess because the tone of the music fits with the sites and smells of autumn, or whatever other weird way you want to put it. Same goes for football. I try to avoid watching it before September because I don’t want feel like it’s autumn when it’s not, if that makes any sense. Now for some things that doesn’t always hold true, like basketball. I do basketball all year around because I like it so much. However, the NBA season starts in late October and stretches into the beginning of June so it’s practically a year-long sport anyway.

So, moral of the story, I’m not watching any football until the NFL’s season opener on September 9th when the not retired Brett Favre leads the Minnesota Vikings against the New Orleans Saints. See you then.

LeBron James is a loser.

That’s the only conclusion that I can come to when I consider LeBron James. He quit on his team in the playoffs against the Boston Celtics and then bolted town to join the Eastern Conference All-Star team Miami Heat, a move that is certainly befitting of his front-running ways and nothing short of mercenary. This comes after two years of endless speculation about what LeBron would do after becoming a free-agent on July 1st, 2010 and a summer which LeBron and his cronies hijacked in such as a way as to make Brett Favre blush with jealousy. So as you can imagine we’re all tired of LeBron James by now, and after the hour long “Decision” special on ESPN, I think he’s as big a tool as ever.

Honestly, I could care less where he plays next season. I’m not a fan of him, the Cavaliers, or the myriad teams he was rumored to have been signing with at various times over the last couple of seasons. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about the idea that he “owes” it to the city of Cleveland to stay there forever, although he did say early in his career that it was his goal to bring a championship to said city. I’m not so hung up on what he did as I am the way he did it. I think it’s weak to to leave a team after seven seasons to jump to a team with all-stars in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, especially after he quit on the Cavaliers during the playoffs. The only thing missing from that disappointing Game 6 loss to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semis was him finding the nearest garbage can and throwing his jersey into it. I’ve said that part of the Cavs losing to the Celtics was coaching, but he was the leader of the team and it shouldn’t have happened if he were as good as he’s supposed to be. If he’s going to be compared to Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, or any number of other great players, he should at least perform like them when it matters and not act like a baby as he’s done the previous two years. I think the whole way he’s carried himself during all of this stinks and it shows a glaring lack of maturity for someone labeled “The King.” To mail in a playoff series and then leave the team after making the entire regular season, postseason, and offseason about yourself is utterly narcissistic.

LeBron says that money wasn’t an issue in his decision, and indeed he is right. He, Wade, and Bosh all signed six year contracts for $15 million less than the max they could have gotten. So if money’s not an issue, why not just sign in Cleveland for less so that the team could bring in some new players? The Cavs have a better coach in Byron Scott than Miami does in Eric Spoelstra and, most importantly, they can actually fill out a starting lineup. Considering this and everything he said about it being a hard decision to leave Cleveland, why not stay? For my part, I think he left just to have more attention in Miami, because that’s the only team people will be talking about before, during, and after the 2010-2011 season. Or maybe he’s incapable of winning a championship with him as the leader of the team.

And for anyone talking about how horrible a person Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert is for his angry letter, stop it. Given the situation, we would all react in the same way. It’s ridiculous to blame the owner for something like this. He did what he could to try to convince him to stay by offering James the most money possible and getting Byron Scott to be the new coach. If the leadership of the Cleveland franchise was inept, they wouldn’t have made it to the Finals in 2007 and they wouldn’t have had two consecutive 62 win seasons. Do you think Gilbert and former GM Danny Ferry just blundered their way to a Finals appearance and two straight 62 win campaigns? It doesn’t just happen. They did whatever they could to get LeBron the help he needed to win, but it just wasn’t enough for whatever reason, be it coaching, James’ teammates, or his aforementioned lack of maturity. The rise of the Celtics and Orlando Magic certainly didn’t help either.

On another note, it’s disappointing to see the Eastern Conference lose one of its top teams. At the end of last season, the Cavs, Magic, Atlanta Hawks, and Celtics were the only teams to win at least 50 games; by comparison, all eight playoff teams in the Western Conference won at least 50 games, which is amazing. Had James stayed in Cleveland, we would have seen a much more competitive Eastern Conference. Not only would these four teams be in good shape to go for 50 wins again, but they would also have the Heat with Wade and Bosh and the Chicago Bulls with newly acquired Carlos Boozer to contend with. For the first time in a while, the East might have been as competitive as the West. What we’re getting instead is the Cavs and Heat basically switching places, with the Heat headed to the top of the ranking with the Cavs bound for the doldrums of the Eastern Conference…again.

Basically, if LeBron had gone about this sort of thing with a little more grace and tact instead of making the entire free-agency period about himself, it wouldn’t be so bad. I think that everyone who is bothered by him leaving would probably not be if he had just made his decision like a normal person. But what’s done is done. It’s going to be real interesting, and even fun, to watch the next season unfold after all the moves that have gone down.

Easy come, easy go for King James (Yahoo! Sports)
LeBron hardly a king for taking the easy way out with star-laden Heat (Sports Illustrated)
Countdown: The LeBron Fallout (Sports Illustrated)
With fans only in Miami now, pressure’s on LeBron to win it all

How is this unwise?

I just read an article at SLAM Online that suggested it was “unwise” of Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce to opt out of their contracts and resign for less money with their respective teams, the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics. Nowitzki is re-signing for $80 million over 4 years while Pierce is re-signing for $61 million and 4 years. When compared to the max amount of money they could have taken, Nowitzki is taking a $16 million paycut while Pierce is making $15 million less himself. By doing so, the pair have allowed their respective some more flexibility. The Mavericks will save $32 million over the next four years if they remain in the luxury tax while the Celtics can now consider some trade options they wouldn’t have bothered with before.

So what’s unwise about taking a paycut to help your team get players that will help you win? The idea in the SLAM article was, since Nowitzki and Pierce are both 32 years old, that they would not get another opportunity to sign another max contract because they would be considered past their prime when it was time for them to be free-agents again; who would want to throw a ton of money at a couple of 36 year old players? I find this line of reasoning to be kind of dumb. Certainly, you wouldn’t want to sign someone to a max contract that late in their career, but isn’t the whole point of being an NBA player to win championships? What Nowitzki and Pierce are doing is allowing their teams more room to move when it comes to putting a team around them to help them win a championship. Tim Duncan did it a few years ago with the San Antonio Spurs. The money the Spurs saved allowed them to keep Manu Ginobili

And now to belabor this. When I consider the greatest players in the history of the NBA, I don’t think of how many max contracts they had. You might find this hard to believe, but in my many basketball conversations I have NEVER listed the number of max contracts the player in question has signed. When you hear fans talking about how their team is the best, you never hear them talk about how many max players they have. Actually, the amount of money a team pays a player could be a topic of embarrassment for some fans, like any New York Knicks fans who deal with their team signing guys like Jerome James and Eddy Curry to large contracts. You’ll never hear anyone talk about bloated contracts like that as a good thing. Ask any little kid with dreams of playing in the NBA and he’ll tell you that he wants to win championships and be the best player. Certainly, the money is also alluring, but everyone wants to be recognized with the champions. A young basketball player doesn’t fantasize about having the most maximum contracts in league history, but the championships or MVP’s instead. And do you see any of them reenacting their favorite player signing a max deal? No, because you’ll find them in the driveway, at the gym, or on the playground emulating that player’s moves on the court.

So I would disagree with the article in question. It is not unwise to take a paycut like Nowitzki and Pierce have. And actually, for all we know, that may have been the most money they could have possibly gotten.
Dirk, Pierce Take (Unwise?) Paycuts

And this is why I’m no longer going into journalism.

It’s crazy to think that I, the biggest basketball fan the people that I know know, would allow the NBA Playoffs to go by with hardly any blog posts about them. Yet I did. And then the NBA Finals went by without a post. And then the NBA Draft. For whatever reason I just haven’t felt up to my usual sports writing self. Sometimes I forget about my blog and then when I remember it, I start to worry that I haven’t been updating it. And by worrying about it, it starts to feel like work, which is why I guess it’s good that I’m no longer looking into getting into journalism. I can’t really imagine writing with a deadline every day. I of course still enjoy writing, but after thinking about it it’s not something I think I would enjoy doing every single day because I had to. Mostly I think deadlines would drive me crazy, even if I am good at getting a paper for a class done in a short amount of time. Right now, getting a degree in secondary education with an emphasis in social studies just seems more appealing, especially since the teaching degree will help me with any ventures in coaching basketball.

But anyway, I’m going to try to pick up the pace a little bit and start covering the NBA and the rest of the sports I enjoy in a more timely fashion. I would also like to expand my posting topics a little bit as well. I’m also looking into making a podcast, so maybe that will be something else to add.

Out.

The Summer of LeBron starts a little bit earlier than expected.

This summer is going to be crazy. If you thought it was bad hearing about Brett Favre every second of the day, it’s going to be a lot worse with LeBron James. It’s already unbearable hearing about him as it is, but it’s going to be taken to an entirely different level during the summer. The summer of 2010 has been mentioned ad nauseum for the past several years and now it’s finally here. Not only that, the way LeBron and the Cavaliers ended their season in a 4-2 series loss to the Boston Celtics in the second round will only add to the hysteria. Because there’s no doubt about it, the Cavaliers quit at the end of the game last night. They were down nine points with a minute left and chose not to foul. They just stood there and watched Boston dribble the clock out. When they did get the ball they didn’t try to score quickly, opting instead to fritter away the last few seconds doing nothing.

So who’s to blame? Is it head coach Mike Brown? The supporting cast? Or could it even be LeBron himself who’s to blame? One thing I know is that no one is blaming the Celtics for the Cavs’ loss. There have probably been hundreds of polls taken across the nation today asking who’s to blame for this debacle on radio shows and websites and I guarantee you that none of the choices are the Boston Celtics. Boston showed up to play in this series, while Cleveland acted as if all they had to do was get off the bus to win. In fact, that’s the general feeling I got from the media before the series began; no one expected this. Boston was being dismissed as an old, washed-up team that was beyond their usefulness. They may have gotten blown out in Game 3, but they played hard in the other five games. Watching them play defense during this series kind of reminded me of how they looked in 2008 on their way to the championship. There were times during the regular the season when they looked like they didn’t have it in them to make this kind of postseason run, but they’ve really upped their intensity during the last month. They were also able to rely on 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists from Rajon Rondo, and another 18 points and 8 rebounds from Kevin Garnett. Ray Allen may have been inconsistent at times and Paul Pierce never really asserted himself, but Rondo and Garnett made for a steady presence in every game. And let’s not forget about Rondo’s monster triple-double of 28 points, 18 rebounds, and 13 assists in Game 4, which stands as one of the best playoff performances in Celtics history.

The lack of a second consistent player is something that helped contribute to the the Cavs’ early exit. In fact, I believe you’ll find that there are some similarities between last year’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Orlando Magic and this year’s conference semis against Boston. Against Orlando, LeBron was the only Cleveland player to play well the entire series. Maurice Williams, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and the rest of the supporting cast were mostly no-shows. This time around it was the same deal. LeBron played well for the series, putting averages of 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. Williams had 20 points in Game 1 and 22 in Game 6 (20 of which came in the first half), but was nowhere to be found in the games in between. Antawn Jamison, who was picked up mid-season to give LeBron even more help, scored 20 points only once and didn’t break 10 in the final two games.

Also, just like last season against Orlando, the Cleveland bench got outplayed. To be fair, though, they did play well in the first three games, especially J.J. Hickson who averaged 10 points over that span. But in the last three games of the series, Boston’s bench played its role much better. In Game 4 Tony Allen scored 15 points, beating the 11 points by Cleveland’s bench; in Game 5, Glen Davis had 15; in Game 6, Rasheed Wallace had 13 and Allen had another 10. After looking at the stats for the series, I have to wonder: what happened with Hickson? He played for more than 10 minutes in each of the first three games of the series, but didn’t even play 10 minutes in the last three games combined. What happened?

Unlike last season, however, the Cavs gave up. They lost Game 4 97-87 in Boston, but that wasn’t really surprising. Boston is a tough team and they were playing at home. But to follow that up with a 120-88 home loss in Game 5 is terrible, and terrible is exactly how they played in that game. They couldn’t do anything right. They were listless, and not even LeBron could be bothered to make any effort. And at the end of Game 6, as mentioned before, they tanked and didn’t even want to start fouling to try to stay in the game. They had the mentality that they were beat and they wanted no part of the game being extended any longer.

So really, who is to blame? I say it’s everyone. It’s LeBron for not being a better leader, it’s the rest of the team for not showing up, and it’s Mike Brown for getting outcoached and not getting the team prepared to play in the postseason. It’s everyone. I also think it’s the media’s fault for this being such a big deal. I’m not surprised that the Cavaliers didn’t reach the Finals again. I think he was the wrong pick for the MVP and I don’t think he’s as great as everyone says he is. I think he’s good, but he hasn’t done enough to earn all of this talk. He’s been to the Finals once and he got swept by the San Antonio Spurs, a fact that for some reason we NEVER hear about. It is ridiculous how people talk about him. It is so insane that we’ve even got New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Obama lobbying for him to sign with their respective teams, the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls. If you want to know what I’m talking about, read this from ESPN Chicago; and no offense to the author, but that article reads like something off The Onion (when I say that, I mean that it’s not poorly written but comes off as farcical). If it were anyone else failing to win a championship despite having so much talent then they would be the laughingstock of the NBA; they’d be talked about like Peyton Manning, who has lots of talent but “only” one Super Bowl. Again, I think he’s a really good player and I don’t hate the guy, but talk to me about how great he is after his career is over instead of now when he can’t win.

Can The Celtics Get Any Love? (Deadspin)
LeBron overload here (ESPN)

By the way, the Atlanta Hawks “dismissed” head coach Mike Woodson.