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The Shame at Penn State

Joe Paterno has always seemed to be an old man. I mention this because it has been difficult to picture him as a young man, as a man with vulnerabilities for a long time. It seems as though he has stood on the sideline, or sat in the press box since time began. What made Joe Paterno as beloved as he became was not his football coaching, his recruiting or his strategic acumen. It was that he was Penn State, coaching the team since it became relevant over 40 years ago. Not only was he Penn State, through the years Penn State became something more than Penn State. It became a metaphor for stability in an unstable world. When almost all major programs were exposed as liars and cheats, there was one last honest man. That may sound like an exaggeration, and I know many people did not see Paterno in this way, but what I do know is that there certainly were some who did, and those were his people, his players, his boosters, his fans, and his kids. That was whom Joe Paterno, without explicitly stating it, was coaching for.

Jerry Sandusky, however irrelevant and immoral seeming it may now be, was very good at his job as Defensive Coordinator by all accounts. He coached phenomenal defenses, and phenomenal linebackers in particular, winning two National Championships along the way. However, by 1998 it was clear something was amiss with Sandusky, who was at the time in line to replace Paterno. Sandusky, a man who had adopted six children, a man who ran a foster home, was being investigated for inappropriate behaviour with young boys in the Penn State showers. No charges were filed, and the DA went on to disappear without a trace seven years later. It is not know whether Paterno knew, but he informed Sandusky around the same time that he would no longer be the man replacing him. Within twelve months Sandusky retired. It seems as though Penn State and Paterno recognized all was not right with Jerry Sandusky.

The years go on and in 2002 Sandusky is no longer officially employed, yet is still granted unlimited access to Penn State facilities. It is in the same showers that a graduate assistant saw Sandusky raping a 10 year-old boy and informed Paterno. Justice cannot be done to that sort of tragedy; one sentence almost feels like a trivialization. The image that comes to mind is a sickening one, one I am sure we all hope will never happen, real or imagined, ever again. Joe Paterno was informed of this and he informed the Athletic Director, who did nothing. Joe Paterno found out about the rape of a 10 year-old boy, and although he legally fulfilled his obligation to inform a superior, he did not make sure something was done about it. I would be willing to bet that if Joe Paterno had called the police, Sandusky would have been charged much earlier than he was. Jerry Sandusky continued to molest young boys because people like Joe Paterno knew about it and did not ensure the atrocities stopped.

We want our great football coaches to be great people; that is why Joe Paterno was so admired. His “Grand Experiment,” his commitment to both academics and athletics was held up as evidence of something greater than a mere football coach. What we all failed to notice was that the qualities of a great football coach are usually not the qualities of a great man. A football coach’s job is to control the outcome as much as possible, to grant his team the best chance at victory. A person’s job, sometimes, is to admit that the outcome cannot be controlled, to admit that Jerry Sandusky, his friend and colleague was a monster, to in essence admit defeat. Unsurprisingly, Joe Paterno, one of the greatest coaches of his generation, failed to do this. He did the minimum of what he had to do while at the same time ensuring that he had the best chance to emerge unscathed, to ensure that he had the best chance to win. Had Sandusky been charged in 2002, the investigation of 1998 would have come to light and Joe Paterno would be in a very similar predicament to the one he is currently in. Joe Paterno put victory ahead of decency, and as a result everybody lost.

We want to believe that football, and sports, are a force for good, that they have lessons to teach us. Sometimes, football is a force for bad. Sometimes, it allows a depraved man to get away with despicable crimes in large part because he was good at telling football players how to line up on the field. It sounds absurd how much power one football coach, even an assistant, can have. It sounds much scarier in the case of Jerry Sandusky, and how he used that power for evil.

We want to believe that friendship and teamwork are good as well. Sometimes, friendship and teamwork allow evil deeds to go unpunished. Joe Paterno did not exercise proper moral behaviour, and he allowed molestation to go on because he knew Jerry Sandusky so well, because they were on the same team. Whether Paterno consciously thought in this manner is almost irrelevant, because one way or another he allowed his teammate to escape penalty. I would like to think I would have called the police if I was Paterno, but real life is not always as easy. It is much easier to think to yourself there must be a misunderstanding, to not report your longtime coworker and teammate.

The rebuttal to all this is that the fault lies with the administration, not with Paterno. After all, he did what he was legally obliged to do. I don’t know the administrators involved, but I am pretty sure they don’t have millions of followers, millions of fans, and millions of admirers. Joe Paterno has the most power of anyone on the Penn State campus, just ask the President who attempted to fire him and was rebuffed. Paterno had the opportunity to do right by everyone, to protect innocent kids, and he didn’t do it. That is why he cannot be allowed to coach college football, and cannot be allowed to coach kids any longer.

There are no great lessons or morals to take from this tragedy. Sometimes the guy next door is a monster. Sometimes great men make cowardly mistakes. Sometimes sports aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Sometimes friendship and teamwork aren’t for the greater good. Sometimes a legend has to fall for all to realize we can do better.

The Deeper Side of Pretty Boy Floyd

By: Norman Yallen

Floyd Mayweather is the best boxer alive right now. If you have a quarrel with that, take it up with the man himself. He’ll tell you all about his credentials, how he’s won every pro fight he’s ever had, how he’s never even truly been knocked down. He’d go on to say that he’s the greatest of all time, that no one can touch him. Or perhaps he’ll just kick your ass. Mayweather may fight too defensively, he may only agree to fight only those he is sure he can beat, but the one thing Mayweather cannot be accused of lacking is bravado. Last Saturday, he knocked out a fighter in the process of apologizing to him, and he threatened an 80 year-old reporter who questioned it. A common complaint is that Mayweather is ruining his legacy, yet that complaint presumes that Mayweather cared about his legacy, or had much of one to begin with. He is the greatest boxer in the age boxing matters least as a sport. He is successful not because of being able to hit powerfully, but because of a knack for evading powerful hits. He is not what most boxing fans would like boxing to be, and yet they tune in fight after fight, opponent after opponent to see if Floyd can give that something extra, to see him pushed to the brink, to see him reach within himself to pull out something he didn’t know he had. That is why everyone would like to see him fight Manny Pacquiao, except Floyd will not have any of it.

 

Most young African-American athletes today and in Floyd’s generation pursue either basketball or football. They work hard to become a basketball or a football star, making a conscious decision to invest themselves in their sporting dreams. Floyd Mayweather did not make the same decision; in actuality he never made any decision at all. His father was a boxer; his two uncles were boxers, leaving little doubt about Floyd Junior. Before he could walk his father took him in a stroller to the gym and he was held up to hit the punching bag. He never decided to become a boxer; he simply always was a boxer. In an age where young men were fleeing the sport of boxing in droves, seeing the damage inflicted on all its greats, Floyd Mayweather, due to his unique personal circumstance, actively pursued it. When he broached his grandmother about getting a job, she told him to just keep boxing. When his father went to prison for drug trafficking he boxed, even when he fired his father as his trainer, he continued to box. It never seemed to be much of a choice, or a job, it is just who Floyd Mayweather is, and when something is who you are, you tend not to care about your legacy, that is for people who have a passion for it, who choose to do it.

 

When he started out his nickname was Pretty Boy Floyd, due to a bank robber with the same name, yet it just seemed to naturally fit. Other boxers would end their fights with cuts, a bloody nose, a black eye, a busted up ear, but never Floyd. His face was always just as pretty at the end of a fight as at the beginning. At the same time as complimenting his defensive strengths, the discipline his father taught him in how to avoid any hard hits, it also validated the criticisms of him. There was the perception that he couldn’t slug it out, that he cared more about protecting himself and his face than in fighting the best fight he could. That he wasn’t as tough as a boxer should be. The original Pretty Boy Floyd hated his nickname, as did Mayweather for it seems tough guys don’t like being called Pretty Boy. He abruptly decided he would create his own nickname, introducing himself as Floyd “Money” Mayweather. This had more relatability to young, urban, primarily black people, who had grown up similarly to the way he had. He had started out dirt poor in Grand Rapids with a rough family life, and was now saying to the world that he had made it, that he was “money.” A cynical person would say he has crafted that image, that he waves hundred dollar bills as a marketing tactic, that he is just trying to prove he is worthwhile to the public. However, that person would have it quite wrong, Floyd Mayweather most of all needs to prove that he is worthwhile to himself.

 

“24/7”, HBO’s boxing show that follows the run-up to big fights has become a hit over the years in large part due to the fascinating dynamics of the Mayweather family. There’s the father and son who don’t speak, and the crazy Uncle who trains him now instead. The father was in prison for drug trafficking, the mother was a drug addict. It is not a family that will have a charming sitcom made about them on CBS; it is a family that would have a show on, well, HBO. Growing up like that, it doesn’t take a psychologist to realize that Floyd Jr. had a mindset that it was every man for himself. He carried that into his professional career, and if there were two things Floyd knew it was how to look out for himself, and that boxers were often guided and evaluated by people that did not have their best interests at heart. Muhammad Ali was praised as the greatest boxer ever, now all his hits to the head have him almost incapacitated with Parkinson’s. Mike Tyson had almost all his wages stolen by corrupt management. One of Mayweather’s opponents, Arturo Gatti, was beloved for the brutal fights he fought in the ring. He was tragically found dead in his hotel room a couple years back. Floyd was determined not to follow that blueprint. He would protect his body by fighting defensively, not taking any big hits. He would protect his money by discarding Bob Arum a man notorious for taking a large commission, and taking a large hand in managing and promoting himself. So it shouldn’t surprise us that Floyd Mayweather doesn’t seem to care what the public, those who don’t have his best interests at heart think of his legacy, he cares only about the man in the mirror.

 

So when his face, and his reputation were in the process of being attacked, Floyd acted in his own best interests. Victor Ortiz broke the rules in head butting Mayweather. Floyd could not and would not stand by as a man tried to damage him by breaking the rules, when he couldn’t compete with Floyd playing by them. He did what he would have done in a fight back in his home of Grand Rapids, when a man shows weakness and takes his eye off the fight in the middle you take him down. Interestingly, it seems most boxing writers and experts, such as Dan Rafael, agree with that viewpoint. Boxing isn’t governed by rules or ethics; the entire industry is a little less corrupt than Bernie Madoff. The sport of boxing is governed by looking out for your own best interests, and sometimes that may include a cheap shot on an opponent. Floyd Mayweather has fought since he could walk, he understands it as few do, so he would not take criticism from Larry Merchant who never fought, who could never truly understand Floyd or boxing in Mayweather’s eyes. Mayweather has never seemed to bother with those who don’t understand boxing, and therefore don’t understand him.

 

Boxing as a sport is dying. People dispute that with fight viewership statistics, but I see the point as being inarguable. MMA and UFC have countless rising stars, and countless young men in gyms across America training to become the next UFC fighter. Boxing has no young American stars, just Floyd Mayweather, and it is quite possible he may be the last big boxing star we ever see. I am aware that Manny Pacquiao is also a star of that caliber, yet he is 33 and Mayweather is 34. It is quite possible their best fights are behind them, and no young stars seem to be taking their place in the ring or in the public imagination. Floyd Mayweather is the last of a dying breed, The American Boxing Superstar. Which is why although boxing fans may not like him, they root for him to fight Pacquiao, to maintain relevancy, for as long as Floyd Mayweather is on the map in America then boxing is on the map in America.

 

Floyd Mayweather does not care about the health of the sport of the boxing, in the same way that the sport has never cared about the health of its fighters. Floyd Mayweather cares most of all about himself, and in the individualistic sport of boxing where no one can be trusted, that is the smart way to be. While it would be great for the sport for him to be challenged by Pacquiao, he is keenly aware that it may not be great for him. He makes tens of millions to fight men who he is sure he can beat, so why would he need to make a little more to fight a man he is unsure he can beat.  To him, what makes him the greatest is not merely that he has gone undefeated but unchallenged. So although it may be cliché, Floyd Mayweather does not care about what you or me think of him, whether we feel he has fulfilled his potential as a fighter. He doesn’t need the potential trauma of fighting Pacquiao, and he sure as hell doesn’t need the money. The only reason he would take this fight is for public approval, and like it or not, the only approval Floyd Mayweather cares about is his own.

Does Yao Ming belong in the Hall of Fame?

Endings are always hyperbolic. It’s just a natural product of our behavior. When NDP leader Jack Layton passed away recently, it was met with universal praise of his life and achievements. I opened the newspaper to find an editorial which called upon future Canadian politicians to follow the acronym: WWJD—What Would Jack Do? Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but was there a Jesus comparison in there?

I’m not trying to marginalize Layton’s life—in fact, I do believe that he was dedicated, passionate and caring as politician. But when he was applauded in every form of media for an entire week, you begin to ask yourself: wasn’t the one knock on this guy that you could never see him actually running the country? The vicious world of campaigning took a complete 180 once the news of Layton’s illness became spread.

This has nothing to do with Layton but instead is an assessment of our general attitudes towards death—or simply endings in general. The same has happened in sports. When Drazen Petrovic—a European super-duper-star turned NBA underdog story—died in a car accident at 28 he was remembered as a basketball legend (and in Europe, he was). But whenever Petrovic gets brought up, the concept of him battling Michael Jordan toe to toe is always discussed. He always gets billed as “the one guy that gave Jordan fits”. He may have done well against Jordan, but his death propelled him into another stratosphere. And because nobody else ever gave Jordan any serious problems (see: six championships) combined with the fact that Petrovic could never lose that status—he would always be the guy that was just as competitive as Jordan. Hyperbolic statements are easy to defend because Petrovic can’t get burned by Jordan anymore the same way Jack Layton has no opportunity to get burned in Parliament.

Petrovic had just begun to get his NBA career on the right path before he died

The greatest example of this is without a doubt Len Bias. For those who may be unaware, Bias died the night of being drafted by the Boston Celtics because of a cocaine overdose. Whenever the Bias story is retold, he is branded as the next greatest NBA legend. He was strong, he was fast and Red Auerbach was hell-bent on getting him. And because Len Bias never played an NBA game—we’ll never know if he was bound to be an NBA legend. But in our minds, he was supposed to be—heck, he was as surefire as the Yankees or Red Sox winning the AL East. He was going to be the next big thing. And you know what incident gets attributed to the United States intensifying their cocaine laws? Len Bias.

Look, I’m not trying to say that Layton, Petrovic and Bias didn’t deserve any of this credit. That’s far from the point. The thing we tend to do around endings is over exaggerate. We turned Layton, Petrovic and Bias from exceptionally skilled and passionate people into mythical beings.

And there’s nothing wrong with it.

When Yao Ming was forced to retire from basketball this summer, in many ways it was a death. Far from the tragedies I discussed in the previous three stories—but it mirrors them to some degree. The heartbreak with Yao is that he didn’t even reach 500 career games and found his seasons cut short due to constant lower body injuries. And Yao was an amazing talent. He finished his career averaging 19 points, 9 rebounds and almost 2 blocks per game. But Yao will mostly get remembered for igniting a global NBA—especially in China where the NBA’s popularity has skyrocketed. Yao was an international icon. You could see him on TV—not just playing in games but in commercials and interviews. But we’ll always say that Yao could have contributed more. Yao could have been even greater.

But is he a hall of fame player? With fewer than 500 games played, he surely doesn’t seem like your conventional candidate. But then again, how many candidates have impacted basketball on an international level the way he did? Yao will surely become the topic of a more heated debate when his nomination rolls around (he asked the committee to delay it until further notice).

You’ll have people saying that he didn’t do enough as a player to merit the induction but it doesn’t matter. Yao deserves it.

And now I’ll have my chance to be hyperbolic. Yao revolutionized Chinese basketball, took an entire country on his back to the NBA. Period.

He dominated on the court. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad word about the guy. A competitive player who believed in the idea of team-first. His physical size did nothing to demonstrate the kind of symbol he was for hundreds of millions of people.

Yes, we often get caught in the trap to overstate and exaggerate at our endings. But this is what it all comes down to: when I came to love the game of basketball and slowly learn its history, I often had to rely on accolades because of my inability to see the players first hand. I never watched Larry Bird or George Gervin or Jerry West play. I’ve seen highlights, watched a few NBA classic games and heard stories—but never seen them play a regular season game in mid-February. Never seen them dominate outside of their signature highlights and moments. So, I rely on what kind of awards they were given. To give me a picture of the NBA hierarchy in the days before I began dribbling a basketball.

Yao was a global icon

In many ways, the Hall of Fame is meaningless indicator. It’s a subjective line drawn by somebody. It’s not winning MVP or an NBA championship—it’s just a decision made by a group of people. But yet, the Hall of Fame does mean something. Because of all the great players that are inducted, there is a concerted effort to try and preserve the meaning of receiving the honor. It means very little that Michael Jordan was inducted if Greg Ostertag were also there. It is there to preserve their legacies for future hoopheads (like me).

There is a reason we attach legendary characteristics to people like Jack Layton, Drazen Petrovic and Len Bias. Because we want to ensure that the future sees these people the same way we have. And without their talents on display, we often need to be hyperbolic in order to demonstrate the true greatness of those who can no longer perform their craft.

Whether he makes it into the Hall of Fame is irrelevant to my view of him. I saw Yao. A torchbearer in a physical and emotional way for the entire world. The next generation will have never seen him play, just as I never saw Chamberlain or West, and I want them to remember him the same way I will. A Hall of Fame induction will go a long way towards cementing the legacy that he has left with those who witnessed his playing days. That’s all I want.

Rap

By: Norman Yallen

There was once a young man who dreamt about changing the world. He told tales of societies outcasts, its lower rung, and illustrated the injustice he saw around him. These tales led to that man becoming incredibly popular, wealthy, and powerful. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way he lost sense of what made him great in the first place. Now, instead of telling stories about poverty and despair, and bringing light to the issues, he remarks about himself and his own possessions. While his gift may still be there, he is laying it to waste. He simply cannot tell a story that the people listening can relate to. That is the problem with rap music as we begin the second decade of the 21st century.

 

Watch the Throne is a compilation album released earlier this month by Kanye West and Jay-Z, who are arguably the two most popular rap artists alive. Therefore, it should provide a good indicator as to the state of rap music, in both lyrical content and stylistically. Stylistically, it stands very high, with the catchiest hooks and snappiest backbeats for the songs that money and talent can buy. The song “Otis” serves as a duet with Otis Redding, which seems like a great idea, as does the whole album. That is until the two rappers begin to do what they are supposed to be famous for doing. Jay-Z follows Otis’s refrain by saying he ‘invented swag.’ It all degenerates from there, with Maybachs and Benzes, cigars, ‘poppin bottles’, supermodels, and all sorts of tidbits from the good life. It was very well produced, very well said, but it was something I could not listen to. That is not to get on a moral high horse; I didn’t hate it for its profanity, or for that matter any perceived immorality, it was just that there was nothing in that song I could identify with. Now here might be the part where people say that rap isn’t meant for me, it’s meant for people, lower class people, and predominantly it is meant for black people at that. Well, the lower someone’s income is, the less they will be able to identify with two talented, rich men, talking about how talented and rich they are. An art that was originally performed and enjoyed by people not so well off has turned into one with a bigger disconnect between the performer and the listener each passing album.

 

In 1993, fresh off the smash success of NWA and Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg released his debut alum, Doggystyle, produced by Dre himself. He rapped about his life, about smoking pot, and fucking women, and being in a gang, and even about killing people. Critics found it obscene, and repulsive at times, but most of all critics and fans found it real. He was rapping about a lifestyle and a people that were being disregarded by most Americans, and whether people liked it or not, he was showing them what life could be like for a lower class minority in Southern California. His later albums have also been about the good times, the women, and the weed, but none has caught on the way Doggystyle did. He is missing that realness, when he raps about the bad times it feels contrived, and when he raps about the good times it feels irrelevant. For instance, in the early 1990s when Snoop Dogg, or Dr. Dre, or Ice Cube cried out, “Fuck the Police,” it felt real in that they really had a distrust of cops at the time, as did much of the black community. Today when they cry that, it doesn’t really seem to add up, since police are guarding their performance. The tipping point for Snoop, and Jay-Z, and all of rap music came about the murders of Tupac, and the Notorious BIG.

 

In the early 1990s Tupac Shakur (2Pac) and Christopher Wallace (Notorious BIG) led warring factions of rap, with 2Pac running the West Coast, and Biggie running the East Coast. On the streets the Bloods and the Crips would fight, and on the mic 2Pac and Biggie would fight. The content, the flow, and the bile were something deeply connecting with much of America at the time, and it really served to put rap music on the map to stay. Unfortunately for these two men, and for the entire genre, that bad blood carried out into the streets as both men were murdered. Although there would be feuds, and gangster talk, it wouldn’t be the same after. There might be an invective about someone’s wife, but there would no longer be death threats on a song. Rap music had become too real, and in its urge to end this feud, it became something more corporate and less relevant for the lives of its listeners.

 

To be clear, I am not bemoaning the good old days of rap music. I am thankful that today music icons aren’t dying over silly feuds. I don’t believe most people listening to Pac or BIG were really in gangs, and as a matter of fact, I probably identify more with Kanye’s jet-setting life than I do with Pac’s stint in prison. In a way, I am not entirely sure why the latter for whatever reason feels more real than the former. Perhaps because it fits the stereotype of the black man as a gangster, as opposed to a globetrotting entrepreneur. For better or for worse, rap became less violent, broadened its base of listeners, and that changed the music that was coming out. In a way, both Pac’s America, and Ye’s America are entirely contrived creatures. Almost anyone listening to Pac, or Snoop Dogg, I am willing to bet, had no idea what it felt like to ‘cap someone.’ Almost anyone listening to Jay or Kanye, has no idea what it feels to drive a Maybach (that car must be mentioned in every single rap song.) In that way, rap isn’t about the music and never has been, and that is why many old people will never understand it. Rap music is selling us not on the reality, but on the fantasy, whether it is being rich, or being a gangster, or maybe being both. There is a reason people love Tony Montana, because although most people don’t actually want to be a gangster, they find there to be something desirable about it. Almost anyone will confess they would like to jet around the world in the way Kanye talks about doing.

 

That’s why for all the posture, I don’t believe I ever really liked rap music then or now. It was never so much for the music for me, as it was the idea of being a gangster, or being a star. The irony is that a style started by street poets and MC’s attempting to talk about real life, turned into an almost contrived selling of a fantasy that the average listener will never experience. There are exceptions of course, K’naan talks about Somalia, the hardships of Africans, and the eternal hope in moving forward. Last I checked, K’naan is not on the throne of rap music however, it is Kanye West and Jay-Z. Eminem has endured over the course of time, with a talent and style no one can match. He has taken an enormous amount of criticism for his misogyny. I would contend that secretly, many of his male listeners get a kick out of degradation of women. Maybe they don’t personally find it appropriate, but all Eminem fans are giving it a tacit approval. Call it almost a fantasy, if you will. I am not going to say I am morally against Eminem, that is not who I am and is not who I want to be, but if you think all of Eminem’s fans think it is the jest he says it is, then I urge you to listen to ‘Stan’ and you’ll soon see why Eminem and I would beg to disagree.

 

Rap music is not the people’s music. It does not chronicle life as it is for the poor people; it is not the modern day folk music. However, it certainly says something about us as a society. We are people that like to dream, that sometimes buy houses when they can’t afford it, that sometimes do things that they shouldn’t but wish that they could. We don’t want someone chronicling our reality, as perhaps a second recession draws near. We want the fantasy, whether it is the gang or the Maybach. So for giving the party people what they want, I must give three cheers to Kanye West and Jay-Z. You’ll find me in the corner, unsure of just how to listen.

Toronto Raptors Draft Preview

By: Norman Yallen

When I was six years old, my father took me to my first Toronto Raptors game, against the Charlotte Hornets. A lot has changed since that day, the Hornets have left Charlotte and the Bobcats have taken their place. More importantly, the Toronto Raptors lost their exciting young star Vince Carter, and then their exciting young star Chris Bosh. With a couple exceptions, the Toronto Raptors have had a very high draft pick just about every season, and they really have fucked it up. There was the year they drafted Rafael Araujo, because after all we needed a center to complement Chris Bosh. Never mind that everyone knew Araujo didn’t have the talent to be a starting centre. I remember his rookie year, my Dad and I were at a half full Air Canada Centre, when Araujo came on the big screen and informed us that it was South American Adventure Day. I swear this actually happened, and to be honest, it almost made me happy we picked the small, slow center that could not jump, and didn’t seem to have anything he was good at. If we weren’t going to be a successful team, at least we’d have South American adventures to look forward to. Imagining General Manager Rob Babcock getting eaten by a piranha never failed to satisfy me. If you think that joke went to far, you obviously never had to watch Rafael Araujo play. In that draft he passed up Andre Iguodola who was the consensus better prospect. Iguodola is now a focal point for Philadelphia while Araujo is “starring” in Brazil.

 

The next year, it was draft time again in Toronto, and I was eager to see what shit sandwich good old Rob Babcock had in store for the good fans of Toronto this time. Pick 8 rolled around, and the consensus was to take Danny Granger, who was the most polished prospect available. Nope, Rob first took Charlie Villanueva. But then we had pick 16 and Danny Granger was still around. Rob Babcock then proceeded to select Joey Graham, whose main achievement is being not quite as bad as his identical twin brother Stephen. Danny Granger is now one of the best scorers in the NBA. Then, Babcock’s employment was mercifully terminated and Bryan Colangelo took over. He proceeded to convince us that we did not want Brandon Roy, or Lamarcus Aldridge. What we really wanted was a big Italian who could shoot the basketball, and he was even still growing. What he did not mention was that Andrea Bargnani had no interest in using his size for anything other than getting cookies from the top shelf. Although based on his lack of boxing out, if anyone with any leaping ability was nearby, he would have to let him get the cookies.

 

The problem with NBA General Managers is Dirk Nowitzki. Now, I don’t mean the Finals MVP himself but rather the events when he was drafted that set up a problematic template. In 1998, Dallas took Robert Traylor with the 6th pick, and traded it for Pat Garrity and the 9th pick, which was used to select Dirk. At the time everyone said this was a terrible trade for the Mavericks, since Traylor was a collegiate star for Michigan, and a sure bet to succeed, while no one really knew what to expect of this jump shooting European. Over time, Nowitzki became an MVP, while Traylor battled obesity, got an unflattering nickname (it’s a pun related to his size and last name, I’ll let you guess what it is), and ultimately died of a heart attack this year. Now, Don Nelson after this got a lot of credit for going against conventional wisdom, and making a risky pick as opposed to a safe one. This became a popular thing to do in the NBA, as General Managers fell into the following pitfalls. It is hard to analyze a success, but it is easy to tell what makes a failure.

1. The Workout Wonder and Measurable-A Lack of In-Game Experience

This is usually a foreign player, and I mean this in a non-xenophobic way. Typically American players will get in game college experience we can evaluate them on. In the absence of that for many foreign players, NBA teams have players work out. Now this would be great if the league were about doing drills but that is not what the league is about. For instance, Leandro Barbosa is faster than Steve Nash, but in no way does that mean he would run a better fast break offense. To be able to accurately evaluate players you have to see them in a game, to see what their strengths and weaknesses are. Instead, teams see Yi Jianlian post up a chair and assume that means they can accurately evaluate him. Speaking of which, do you know who has done very well in workouts? Bismack Biyombo. Well, that is until he shot so badly, an NBA scout said, “he played one on none, and lost.” Also often times, a player’s wingspan and other personal statistics will be used in building a player’s case. For instance, Biyombo has a 7”7 wingspan. I don’t care about the wingspan; I care about how he uses that wingspan in a game. I wouldn’t know how he uses it because I’ve never seen him play.

2. Overemphasizing Positional Need-Drafting on an Idea

When Toronto drafted Rafael Araujo they did it because they felt they needed a big man for the future to complement Chris Bosh. This was a nice idea; the only problem was he wasn’t actually good enough to fit the role. As a team you can’t decide what you need, and plug in the best available, you have to try to find the guy you believe to be the best available. People have been talking about the Timberwolves and what they will do if Kyrie Irving is available at 2. It’s a no brainer that if they believe Irving to be the best, they have to take him and figure out which of him or Rubio is not a franchise point guard. If you are in the Lottery, you don’t have many very good players, so one of the best available guys should always fill a need.

3. Lack of Desire

This is the toughest pitfall to avoid because it is the only one you cannot tell. If Jonas Valenciunas is taken number one, I can tell you the Cavaliers have fallen into both Pitfall 1 and 2, but I cannot tell you about this one. I know if a team is drafting based on need right away, and I know if a team is mainly relying on workouts right away. What I do not know right away is that player’s desire. It is in almost every players interest to appear to have a desire to succeed, but once their money is guaranteed, whether they still care is hard to tell. However, there are certainly signs to look for. If it is said a player has a detached demeanor, perhaps they do not have the desire to go in the paint, and physically contribute. Thanks to Andrea Bargnani for teaching me that, the player who meets this is Donatas Motiejunas. The other, maybe even more alarming indication of a lack of desire is the, “well rounded young man.” He might say stuff like, “basketball isn’t the most important thing in my life.” Perhaps as a kid he preferred playing saxophone. This is the type of guy who skips the most important game of his life for a college graduation. I’m not going to mention my examples name, but he is now overweight on Phoenix, and his last name rhymes with farter.

 

So with these pitfalls being accounted for, which of the Raptors potential picks has the best chance to fail and succeed? It is said the Raptors are down to Kawhi Leonard, Jonas Valanciunas, Brandon Knight, and Bismack Biyombo. Who has the best chance to succeed, and perhaps more importantly, who is most likely to fail? I will do my best for you the reader to rank who is most likely a mistake pick, to who is the best pick for the Toronto Raptors.

 

Bismack Biyombo

Please, for the love of God do not pick this guy. He has hardly played any meaningful basketball, toiling away as a third division player in Spain. So what changed? He began to play a tiny bit more, but he had a very good performance at the Nike Hoop Summit. So because he had a good basketball camp, and has a very big wingspan he will be good? Against the likes of experienced players who can hit an open five footer, I wouldn’t bet on it. The other problem is that the Raptors just hired Dwane Casey and are implementing a defensive mindset. In theory that is certainly something I agree with, and I also would like a great defensive center. But just because I want a great defensive center does not mean I believe Biyombo can be that guy in Toronto. They don’t like Biyombo, they like the idea of Biyombo as a franchise center, which he is not. Also, I question any one-dimensional player and I believe Bryan Colangelo pursues them far too aggressively. He put together a roster of players who could only score, than he realized they need rebounding. His response was to get Reggie Evans who is one dimensional in only trying to rebound, to the point where he will yank the ball away from his teammate. The answer to making a better team and better defense is not to get a player that can only defend, the answer is to acquire multi faceted players who play great defense along with having other skills.

 

Jonas Valanciunas

He only played 15 minutes a game in Europe so why will he be able to play more in the pros anytime soon? The difference between him and Biyombo is I think Jonas can succeed down the road. With that being said, I don’t think anyone has seen him play to be confident that he can. With the fifth pick, that simply will not do. As well, he might not be able to be bought out of his contract, and the first thing to make sure of is that the player legally can play for you.

 

Kawhi Leonard

We saw him play at San Diego State and he seemed to be well rounded. I cannot say he will be a guaranteed great player. What I can say is that he was very solid in college, and should be solid in the pros. He is the exact sort of multi faceted defensive player who I would not mind wearing a Raptors uniform. I would not complain about this pick.

 

Brandon Knight

I said it at March Madness and I am saying it now, I would like to see him get more consistent before I spend a top 5 pick on him. At the same time, he has shown he can perform during games and has all the physical tools necessary to be successful. He is the only one of these four that I can see being great. The only question mark is his mental toughness.

 

None of the four is my pick. For my pick at number 5, I want someone who has proven he can succeed consistently, and can be a star player. I want someone who has shown they can master the mental aspect of the game as well as the physical. My pick is Kemba Walker.

 

Kemba Walker

With apologies to Jimmer, this was the best player in the league that is most closely comparable to the NBA style of play. He has shown that he can shoot and he can pass. He can get to the paint, he is a leader, and he has won at every level. On a team where the only player who has enough confidence to shoot in crunch time is Jose Calderon, this is the player we need. Is there any way Kemba is not at the very least a rotation player? He has the least downside and the most upside of any of these players. To me he’s not only the right choice, he’s the only choice.

Ramblings

Noah Bronstein

I’ll be honest: it’s the summer and my mind’s pretty much toasted. After half-writing a half dozen different articles, I realized it’s simpler to get my point across in some Tracy Morgan style quick rants. I hope everybody is insulted…

 

The Mavericks’ overall success as a franchise over the past fifteen years, culminating in a championship, further proves Mark Cuban should be an owner in any other league- no questions asked. Bud Selig, please tell me why you rather have Frank McCourt as an owner than Mark Cuban? You have a bunch of owners stealing money from you every year. Cuban put in offers for both the Cubs and Rangers (and probably for others that we don’t even know about), outbidding everyone else both times. Yet Selig still managed to stop him from buying a team. David Stern might hate all the shit Cuban does, but knows he’s an innovative, successful owner who has created a culture of winning where one didn’t exist before. The most important thing an owner can do is create a culture of winning. Soulless corporations (MLSE, Rogers, Atlanta Spirit) aren’t very effective in doing this. The most successful franchises in the past decade (Lakers, Yankees, Red Sox, Patriots, Colts, Mavericks) all have strong owners who created a culture of winning and success.

 

Now take this fundamental truth and apply it the Canadian Mark Cuban- Mr. Jim Balsillie. Everything you want in an owner- intelligent, determined, has a sense of vision yet is willing to acquiesce to others- is present in Balsillie. The same way MLB needs Cuban to buy one of the Dodgers, Pirates, or Orioles for the sake of the league, the NHL needs Balsillie to buy one of the Coyotes, Predators or Panthers. Is he gonna move the team? HELL YES. Should one of those teams be moved north? HELL YES. Would Tim Horton’s (will go Canadian for the argument) keep a franchise open if it was losing money like Barkley at a casino? No! It would move the franchise to a place where it would be successful.

 

ON TO THE NEXT ONE

Rory McIlroy had one of the greatest golf performances of all time last weekend, leading to his tutelage as the next Tiger (It’s been 18 months, no more sex jokes). But is that really good for golf? Or for that matter, any sport? Does a sport’s professional circuit/league become “better”-more interesting, more exciting- if there is one dominant figure?

I think not. Golf’s best days were the rivalry between Nicklaus and Palmer, with Gary Player, Nick Faldo, and Tom Watson usually contending (sorry for being a pretentious golf nerd there). MJ was exciting but the 90’s were weaker basketball years. I’ll take the intense Sixers-Celtics-Lakers-Pistons battle for hegemony in the 1980’s any day. Basketball enthusiasts say the 1997-98 Bulls had the greatest season ever but that’s one team; the 2010-11 season was the best season ever (damn you lockout!) because there was dominant displays by so many teams. Watching Wayne Gretzky skate circles around everyone is indeed awe-inspiring but watching Crosby and Ovechkin in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semis is way more compelling.

Personally, the fact that McIlroy was so far ahead made me want to watch the U.S. Open less. Sports is drama in real-time; having the tournament in the bag by 4:00 on Sunday renders the last 3 hours pretty much unwatchable.

 

STAY WITH ME HERE

The NBA Draft is tomorrow night and there are a lot of rumours starting to swirl around, which our friend Alex Bogach has summed up well. But all these trade are reminders that while a weak draft is seen negatively by most, it can be a significant opportunity for teams to build solid foundations quickly.  From 2006-2008, which featured drafts ranging from weak to average overall, Portland acquired 8 first round draft picks. In contrast, the Clippers and Timberwolves (two equally horrible teams over that span) had 2 picks each. The sheer volume lead to some great picks: Roy, Aldridge (basically the two best players in ‘06), Batum, Fernandez, and Bayless. It wasn’t like Portland was sucking its way to success either; these picks were all over the first round (ranging between 2nd and 30th) and Portland actually made the playoffs in ’07 and ’08. It can be done.

The Cavs have an excellent chance to do this tomorrow night. Whether it’s sticking with the two picks how they are (likely Irving and Kanter) or being creative, they can easily move their team forward in a relatively weak draft. Teams such as the Kings and Timberwolves have plenty of assets to make moves if they find players they think are important in building a successful team.

 

THAT’S A WRAP

I will be doing a retro diary of sorts for the draft tomorrow (Sorry Simmons is too busy to do one himself so I guess I’ll step up), so look for that on your next visit to TGSB!

NBA lockout brings opportunity for change

Of course, after the most fascinating playoffs and Finals in at least 10 years, including TV and attendance records being broken, NBA fans get to stare down one of the most painful beasts in pro-sports—a lockout. The owners say the players are making too much money, the players say they are making too little. It’s the same story every time.

Now, I certainly have my useless opinion on the actual CBA discussions which comprises heavily of limiting the amount of maximum contracts a team can hand out over a time period. So Joe Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko (he got paid 17.8 million dollars this year!) and Carlos Boozer can’t make Kobe and Lebron money and that one team *cough* Heat *cough* can’t sign numerous top notch players in a short period. Contracts should be shorter and the Mid-Level Exception (the brilliant rule that allowed Jason Kapono to make around 6 million dollars every year) should be dumped faster than Juwan Howard’s corpse.

Besides that? The owners should just be smarter. One second they say they are losing 300 million dollars, the next Elton Brand is making more than Lebron. There’s no discipline but at the same time there have to be rules so that you can be competitive without feeling the need to overpay for an Elton Brand, Corey Maggette or Hedo Turkoglu if you’re a smaller basketball market.

However, this is all fairly boring and obvious. Players definitely need to make less money and it will happen whether it takes one month or eight months. But while we’re reshaping the NBA—can I suggest a few more changes that I would like to see?

1. Fines for floppers

There is a huge difference between ‘selling a call’ and ‘flopping’. Selling a call is when there is contact—but the reaction is embellished. Flopping? Well that’s this.

We need fines or even suspensions for those ridiculous “he-didn’t-even-graze-me’ flops. And I don’t have a problem with players doing it now. If the NBA officials stopped calling out of bounds, the players should use it to their advantage. It ruins momentum of games as well. An offensive foul can ignite the crowd, put foul trouble on other players and—most importantly—take away a possession from the other team.

AK-47 stars in 'I just got shot by an AK-47'

I really think NBA officials get too much hate for the job they do. At the end of the day, a good call is expected and any bad calls are a sign of a mass-conspiracy between David Stern, Tim Donaghy and the Illumati. Blatant flops need serious penalties.

2. No more dunk competition fan voting

The marquee event of All-Star Saturday night, the dunk competition, can never live up to the J-Rich-Carter days. It just hasn’t and never will. The dunk competition will forever be anti-climactic. The guy who dunked on TWO baskets at once lost to the guy who dunked over the hood of a car. Blake Griffin could have done a lay-up and won.

I don’t actually care that much if Griffin won with worse dunks. It doesn’t bother me that much. What bothers me is that with fan voting, the result is all but pre-determined. Unless JaVale McGee dunked blindfolded from the halfcourt line, he was going to lose. Justin Bieber won the celebrity basketball game on the Friday afternoon in this year’s weekend even though Scottie Pippen put up a performance that would make anyone born after 1999 think he might have been better than Jordan. It’s all a popularity contest. If fan voting doesn’t change, Griffin will be there again next year.

3. No more automatic double-technicals

Two guys bump into each other, share a few words (sometimes, well worded sentences) and yap about each other’s moms for four or five seconds. Wait! Here comes Bennett Salvatore! DOUBLE TECHNICAL!

It’s not a bad system for an every once in a while occurrence, but trash talk and verbal fist fighting are fully embedded into the NBA game—especially in the playoffs. Why can’t we let these guys settle their own disputes? I’m not saying to start fighting, but let Kendrick Perkins and Tyson Chandler get a little angry at each other. Once you give them technicals, you risk what happened to Paul Pierce against Miami in Game 1 when he picked up a dumb double-tech with James Jones and then got another one in the 4th quarter which kicked him out of the game.

Here’s the worst part of Pierce’s double-tech with Jones—he didn’t deserve it. James nudged his face into Pierce’s cheek after their discussion got a bit too intimate and it led the officials to punish both of the players. It happened to Chandler this year as well (I forgot against who) when someone bumped him on the shoulder and both guys were T’d up. If I was an NBA scrub, I’d be brushing shoulders with the other team’s star the whole game and hope for a quick double tech.

I’d rather see the guys broken up, separated and calmed down. Heck, send them to the bench until the next whistle. I’m okay with that.

Refs have turned into the guys at parties who run up to every guy talking to a girl and complete kills any momentum the guy had. “Hey! What are you guys talking about? Let me in on this! Oh, I totally love that band too!”. The second we start selling those Harry Potter invisibility cloaks, the NBA should buy one for each ref. We really should never have close-ups of refs during a game—in fact, the best-officiated games are often those in which I don’t know who the officials are.

4. Three Stars

Here’s one thing from hockey that I absolutely love. The three stars after each game is absolutely brilliant. It holds no value long term but gives fans a bunch of immediate benefits:

  • A) The post-game cheer-on. I love it. There’s not enough cheering for individual players after a win outside of the time when the game’s over and the best player gets taken out of a game to a standing ovation. But there’s no recognition during close games when the star players can’t go to the bench early for the crowd’s approval. It boosts player and team morale and makes everyone feel warm inside. Not only that but players can develop a little “star-routine”—John Wall dougies after being first star, Blake Griffin throws down a dunk and Deshawn Stevenson does like five monocle signs.
  • B) The in-game debate. While I’m sitting home towards the end of a game I want to predict who the best three players on the floor were that night. It adds to the in-game discussion. You don’t see anybody asking their buddies who the best three players were.
  • C) I want to give unnecessary credit to hustle bench players. I want Zaza Pachulia and Lou Amundson to get a standing ovation after a 7 and 7 game when they had two hard-tough fouls, played stingy defence, waved a towel down the stretch and did at least one ‘wing-flap’ to motivate the crowd and/or dive into the stands for a loose ball. These people need the love.
  • D) Why the hell not?

5. Release all audio from coach’s being Mic’d Up 

This is essentially WikiLeaks for basketball junkies. I know TNT and ESPN have a guy that filters for the most family friendly, ambiguous and non-threatening audio from the coaches during the game—but he also hears all the coaches completely lost on the sidelines, bad mouthing players with the assistant coaches and, of course, projecting the most profanity littered, insulting, ‘you-wish-I-was-talking-about-your-mom’ rants at incompetent players during the game.

Riley is watching. Do. Not. Turn. Around.

I know, it’s all R rated material—but here’s my plan. Do a massive Inside the NBA hour and a half feature in movie theatres where you just have coaches unfiltered on the sidelines. I would absolutely pay to see that. I would pay just to hear from Erik Spolestra in Game 4 of the Finals.

“What the #$!@ is happening to LeBron?”

“We cannot win a Finals game with Wade, Bosh and Mario Chalmers”

“We need to call Mike Brown at halftime”

“Is Jason Terry better than Derrick Rose? Is that the only logical explanation right now??”

“Rashard Lewis?!?!? ARE YOU SERIOUS??”

Or at least TNT and ESPN needs to hire me to go through all that audio.

(Sidenote. The NHL for sure needs Mic’d Up. I feel like hockey coaches discuss more strategy on the bench—as opposed to just yelling “LET’S PLAY DEFENCE” and “HEY! C’MON! LET’S GET GOING” like in the NBA—and Mic’d Up would 100% allow us to get closer to these coaches. They feel so isolated from us. We don’t hear them and the only time we see them is just pacing behind the bench. We need more emotion)

Bring these five elements into the game next year and I might be able to tolerate unbelievably high player salaries.

By the way, at this point in his career, aren’t we just paying Gilbert Arenas 17 million dollars to run a Twitter account?

My NBA posts are now being syndicated on Beating the Buzzer. You can check out Beating the Buzzer on Twitter @btbsports. Follow Two Guys Sports @2_GSB or my own Twitter @the_REAL_alexb. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet.

What Tim Thomas’s Success Says About Him

By: Norman Yallen

Why is Tim Thomas so good? I don’t mean this as a matter of being bitter over the Bruins winning (although I am); I mean that when you watch him play he logically should not be good. Any time a friend of mine watches him they remark that he flops around in the net and opine that he can’t be successful. I then look at him and say, yeah, he’s just lucky and snipe that I am sure his run of luck will end soon. Then I watched game after game, as Thomas stopped shot after shot, and during tonight’s Game 7 I began to think that perhaps this isn’t luck. Perhaps Tim Thomas knows something about playing goaltender that I, my friends, and hockey fans and experts do not know. In an age where almost every goalie plays a butterfly, or a systematic style, it is Thomas and his free-flowing style based on feel, that stands alone atop the hockey world.

In the early days of hockey playing goalie was a much different job than it is today. For starters, before Jacques Plante, no goalie used the facemask. Now, when I think about this I think that they must have gotten hit in the face very often. While that did sometimes happen, it did not happen as often as fans would think because as a result of not wanting their face knocked off goaltenders played differently. They played a standup style where they would never flop down on their pads to save the pucks. This was done because if a goalie were to go down to save the puck, he would get hit in the face. With the introduction of the facemask, the position changed. It now became logical to go down because without fear of a puck hitting your face, it increased the goalie’s chances of stopping a shot. Inherently today we know that a good goalie goes down to protect against most shots, since he is taller than the net and can now cover more ground.

After the popularization of the mask, it eventually became apparent that a good goalie had to go down on most shots. By the 1980’s, a young goalie named Patrick Roy was taking Montreal and hockey by storm. Besides talking to goalposts (look it up that actually happened) his other prime innovation was popularizing the modern pro butterfly style that goalies such as Roberto Luongo use today. Now, I don’t want this article to get bogged down by the finer points of the style, as I am no goaltending expert and am not trying to write as such. From what I gather, the major points of the butterfly are that the goalie plays low, and as stationary as possible. When they go down, they spread their legs with toes facing outward, and knees close together. This way they cover most of the net, and it logically seems like the way goaltending would most efficiently be done. However, when I watch Carey Price he does this perfectly, and when I watch Roberto Luongo he does this perfectly, yet they are not holding up the Conn Smythe Trophy and Tim Thomas is.

Tim Thomas could not get a starting job in the NHL until he was 31. He bounced around the minor leagues, and spent some time playing in Finland. He made the NCAA Frozen Four, and was a star in Finland winning a championship and an MVP, yet it took him years to find a job in the NHL. You and I know the reason for this, which is that Tim Thomas does not look like a good goalie, he looks like a man just guessing where the puck is. If he stops it then it must be luck. But once he stops it over and over it must not be luck. Finally the Boston Bruins figured this out and made him there starting goaltender. He had a form and a style that made a goaltending coach cringe, which is to say a lack of a set system, but that style is the reason why he is the goalie he is today. After watching him tonight, and throughout these playoffs fans are acknowledging it is not a fluke. What is it that Tim Thomas has that his peers, who logically should be stopping more shots than him, do not have?

If I were to go to a goalie coach and offer him a lot of money to be a great goalie here is what he would and should do. He will assume that I have no inherent gift of recognizing where the puck will go. He will probably play me in a butterfly, or a hybrid style like Martin Brodeur’s that also has sound, consistent positioning. Now we know I am covering the most net by going down into the same position. We have recognized I am a fallible human being who cannot stop every shot so we have put me in a situation where I have stopped the most shots possible. However, Tim Thomas is not like me because Tim Thomas has a gift for assessing where the puck is going to go. Wayne Gretzky had a gift for assessing where the play would be at the forward position, and Tim Thomas has it at goaltender. If you don’t believe me I suggest you put on the tape of Game 7 (unless you are a Canucks fan, although I’m sure if you are then you already believe me). These goalies that consistently go in a similar position are putting themselves in a place where they believe they can stop the most shots possible, although some are bound to go in. What Tim Thomas is trying to do is unique, because he will go into a different position on every shot with no set method because his goal isn’t to stop as many shots as possible; his goal is to stop every shot.

Say you and me are writing a science pop quiz, and there are 4 true or false questions. We do not know the answers but we do know 2 will be true and 2 will be false. The logical butterfly approach to this problem would be to write 4 true or 4 false, because that way we know we will get 2 correct. Tim Thomas would try to answer based on feel, so he would risk getting all 4 wrong for the chance to get all 4 right. For most kids that would be dumb, but I have a friend who is brilliant at science. Why should he confine himself to this system that limits his potential? Even if he is not sure, he should trust his logic and scientific sense and believe they will guide him for 4 answers. Because 2 answers right will be a 50 percent, and my friend should want to get it perfect. Tim Thomas is to goaltending what my friend is to science. The goal of a goaltender should not be to stop as many shots as possible; the goal should be to stop every shot. That is why you will see Tim Thomas risking a goal by coming out of the net to challenge the shooter, because his goal is simply to stop every shot. He does this on feel and feel alone, because if you have a knack for knowing where shots would be, you should not guess on probabilities, you should answer with what that gifted science student just knows.

Tim Thomas has bettered Roberto Luongo in this series because playing by feel, if you are able to do it, is better than playing by a set system. For a goaltending of limited ability, the butterfly is the system that allows them to stop the most shots. For a goaltender of unlimited ability to anticipate where the puck will be, he should not confine himself to a certain place; he should flop to where that puck will be. Roberto Luongo had some great games and some terrible ones, because he was doing what he always does to stop the most shots. This consistency gives him a weakness the shooter can exploit because they know where he is not going to be. Tim Thomas does not have any set positioning, so he could be anywhere. That is much harder for a shooter to anticipate and attack.

I was talking with my Dad about how to act in social settings the other night. I was saying that while I believe I am funny, sometimes I act too much like a comedian, and I go overboard. He said that there is not set rule or system on knowing how much is going overboard, you just have to rely on feel. In essence, what he was saying what that I could just rely on my internal filter. I find in thinking about it, I often know when I am going overboard with the jokes, and that playing it on feel is a much better way to do better on social interactions than to have a set system. A butterfly approach to social relationships would be there is a set rule of jokes you should tell at this time so as to prohibit you from going overboard. I know as a funny guy that that limits my humour, which is one of my strengths. Right now, almost every goalie in hockey is playing a system that limits their potential to stop every shot, except for one goalie. In an age where goalies are limiting where they can play and how they can play, Tim Thomas has become the best goalie not in spite of removing the conventional limits, but because of it.

Lebron’s Collapse Explained

By: Alex Bogach

I couldn’t resist…

Reactions After a Mavs Victory and a Heat Defeat

By: Norman Yallen

What is in a reaction? More importantly what is the right reaction in victory and in defeat? In victory do we want to see quiet humility or brash bravado? In defeat do we want to see stoic composure or tears and a promise to do better? The reactions last night ran the gamut from the crying, to the composed, to the swearing on national television, to naturally Lebron who had the most compelling reaction of them all. While there be no right way to react, there certainly is a wrong way. Maybe in and of themselves they don’t mean much but in the future a reaction to victory or defeat can mean a hell of a lot.

 

Seeing Dirk Nowitzki walk off the court a champion made me incredibly happy, but it was watching the Miami Heat walk off the court that fascinated me more. I was doing what it is that I as a fan do, analyzing this moment to get a glimpse into the deeper psyche of players, which perhaps doesn’t even exist, but which almost any sportswriter will tell you does. I saw Chris Bosh cry in the tunnel, and I had two conflicting thoughts, first that he was not exactly the toughest guy around. The second was that with that being said, he had given this series everything he had, and he was very disheartened that it hadn’t been enough. I may not love to see a player crying but I respected the fact that he had passion and cared about the series. In the other tunnel was Dirk Nowitzki, who had to take a few minutes to compose himself. He just needed a few minutes alone to savour his accomplishment, that after all the tough playoff exits, and criticisms, and missed shots earlier in the night, he was now a champion. It is something that no one will ever be able to take away from him. Then there was Lebron James at the interview podium after the game, where he couldn’t quite give a straight answer on how he felt. At one point he showed what I wanted to see, saying he failed. But then King James came out, opining that any of us who criticized him will be going back to our sad lives while he goes back to his great life. He then went on Twitter and wrote (I refuse to say tweet) that God didn’t plan on him winning this year. Because after all, God was the one who had him pass up open jump shots, stop driving to the basket, and stop covering Jason Terry. God must have wanted him to lose so he could be a prick at the post game news conference.

 

Pat Riley announced after the end of the 1987 NBA Finals, that his Los Angeles Lakers were going to win another. It can certainly be argued that this confidence helped pave the way for Magic Johnson, an aging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and a veteran Lakers to win again the following spring. You weren’t going to be hearing any of that from Dirk Nowitzki, or Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, that simply isn’t their style. Dirk didn’t need to play up his celebrations, or his reactions throughout these playoffs. He didn’t react at all before any of his previous victories, and even after this one, he retreated to the privacy of the locker room before doing so. As opposed to Lebron James, and Dwyane Wade who celebrated at centre court in the middle of Game 2. This was right before Dallas rallied to win the game and the series. It is a celebration, which I would have rather done without if I were a part of the Miami Heat. For that matter, another bad reaction was James, Wade and Bosh’s infamous celebration in mid-July of last year. On a more broad level of what went wrong, this was where the entitlement, and the hatred, and the refusal of the Miami Heat to adapt, began. That reaction and the arrogance on display in July could still be seen in a losing effort in June.

 

I wanted Lebron to show some delayed humility, to express that he could have done better, because I felt he could have done better. However, the truth is that I should not matter to Lebron, what should have mattered to him was his teammates. In the 1969 Finals, Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics upset the heavily favoured Lakers. It was the player-coach’s final game and marked his eleventh championship in thirteen seasons. After the game he kicked out every media member, and anyone else from the locker room. He wanted to savour his final victory with his teammates, his brothers who he had played with for years. To me that reaction represents what basketball is all about, that you don’t play for the sponsors, or the media, or to become a cultural icon, you play to win for your teammates, and you play to win for yourself. That is exactly what Dirk Nowitzki did last night and has done his entire career in Dallas. He did not need to celebrate and cry at midcourt because he did not need to show everyone how much he cared. He and his teammates knew it all along.

 

Lebron says we’ll all go back to our pathetic lives. He wants us to believe that he doesn’t care what we think, that he doesn’t care, but that is not the truth. The unfortunate truth is that Lebron cares deeply about public perception. That is why you will see him celebrating in the middle when he wins, so he can show us, and prove to everyone that he cares. He’s that kid who just wants to be cool, to fit in, and it is cool to be emotional in victory. What is not cool is to be vulnerable in defeat, to say that he may have screwed some things up. To say that he is wasting away his potential, and he knows that as well. That is something he will never say because King James can’t admit fault, he has to show us all that he’s perfect.

 

I see the Heat being very good again next season. The people who say the team needs to be torn apart are the same ones who said Lebron was better than Jordan a couple weeks ago. The team needs a big man, and they need more role players, but they have Wade and James so as long as they are both healthy, they will contend. To win, they need Lebron to play at his best, and to do that he needs to mature in his game, which means developing a jump shot and a low post game. He is the most intriguing player in the game today simply because of his potential and the question of whether he will put it together. The second part of that equation is that he will need to mature in his attitude and outlook. After his answer at the press conference last night it seems this may never happen but it is something I would like to see, because the game is at its best with the best player at his best.

 

I will be waiting until that moment when Lebron begins to live up to his potential. I think the first sign of that moment will be when Lebron calmly walks back into the locker room after a playoff victory, and when he accepts responsibility over a playoff defeat. Then maybe the most talented player in basketball can work at becoming the best one. In the gym all day in the summer, developing his shot and his post game, until he knows that he cannot be stopped or deterred. Once it becomes not about showing us how great he is, but knowing himself that he is the best he could be. Then he can stop boasting in victory, and stop evading responsibility in defeat. Then maybe, someday, if we’re lucky, instead of being the player he is, Lebron can take a page from Dirk Nowitzki who never stops improving, and become the player he is capable of being.