Well, what did I miss? The last time I posted an article (January 31) on this website, LeBron had just jumped over Carlton Banks *ahem* I mean John Lucas III, Novak Djokovic had recently defeated Rafael Nadal in stunning fashion to win the Australian Open, and the Winter X Games were just coming to a close.
Here we are, just over four months later, and LeBron James is up against the ropes versus the Boston Celtics (MUCH more on that later). Novak Djokovic just defeated Jo-Willy Tsonga in a remarkable comeback to stay alive in the French Open, and the Summer X Games are on their way.
Unfortunately, during my hiatus, I missed oodles of noteworthy events, sitting in plain sight for mockery, praise, approval, and pondering. Linsanity (WordPress just underlined that word in the red “you misspelled something” squiggle. Seriously? Get with the program), March Madness, Bountygate, the NFL Draft, most of the NBA Playoffs, the beginning of baseball season, the L.A. Kings playoff dominance, and much more all went unwritten about. (I love Lin, of course UK won, the Saints organization is a mess, Luck > RG3, what happened to my Griz? South Side Supremacy! I wish I could pretend to know a respectable amount about the NHL).
And that’s only the sports! Most of my shows all completed their seasons. The Office left plenty of room for interesting plot lines in what will probably be its final season. I’m sorry, Michael Scott fans, but the show is just as funny as ever. The Simpsons completed their season with the same light chuckles with which it began, and in Top Shot, an IT guy defeated a field consisting mostly of trained shooters. All that’s left is Swamp People (rest in peace Mitchell Guiste). In music, Trip Lee dropped an outstanding album (The Good Life) while Lecrae made a statement with his mixtape Church Clothes.
Despite everything that I missed, whether it was sports, television, music or movies, I have returned at a time when the basket of topics is bursting with things to be written about. Without further ado, let us preview what is to become of Summer 2012. It’s good to be back.
NBA Finals: Or, how to build a great team.
The superteam experiment is over. The fate of the free-agent alliance system hung in the balance while Paul Pierce’s three point shot flew over the outstretched arm of LeBron James. Now, as the Miami Heat stand at the brink of elimination, the preseason press conference/laser light show of 2010 really looks quite silly, wouldn’t you say? It all seemed so simple then. The Heat had three great players, so they would obviously be a great team, right? Now, if they fail to win a championship for the second year in a row, the irony of their failures is not that they are losing, but it’s who they are losing to.
The Celtics, Spurs, and Thunder, are all very good NBA teams. True, each team has multiple superstars (even Hall of Famers) on its roster, but they were assembled the right way. The Spurs drafted a super-super-star in Tim Duncan, and then continued to build around him for over a decade with terrific draft picks like Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and smart free agent signings throughout the years like Bruce Bowen and Michael Finley, to name a few. Despite the ages of Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker, Popovich has kept the Spurs competitive by continuing to support his stars with “others” like Kawhai Leonard, Gary Neal, Boris Diaw, and many more. This team of veterans may have fallen short, but their dominance through the first 10 games of the postseason was a sight to see. The games they lost were in large part due to poor shooting, the unpredictable element of the game. If those shots fall, the Spurs could very well have won the series in five games.
The Thunder are a young team that may very well be the next dynasty in the NBA. Even though their core of Durant, Westbrook, Harden, and Ibaka is unbelievably young, this team has been together for a few years, and they took time to develop. As young as they are, they have still been together longer than 3rd ° Burn. In fact, Westbrook and Durant still don’t know how to play together, but they’re learning as they go, and under Scott Brooks’ direction, they have made it to the NBA Finals just four years after going 23-59. They are so dangerous because they are a complete team. They have three dynamite scorers, veteran leadership from Derek Fisher, outstanding perimeter defense from Thabo Sefalosha, post defense from Kendrick Perkins, shot blocking from Serge Ibaka, and when you throw in the shooting of Daequan Cook and the hustle of Nick Collison, you are looking at a very complete team.
While the Celtics may have built their team through an off-season coup d’etat, they focused their team around fundamental basketball, good defense, and veteran experience. They also had a promising young point guard, a solid center, and a very strong bench (Sam Cassell, Tony Allen, etc.). Their lasting success has been a product of the nucleus playing together for years and learning to play as one cohesive unit, along with continued bench support.
Nothing I said about these three teams applies to the Miami Heat. We saw again in the loss on Tuesday that this team is so talented but so disjointed. They let a thirteen point lead evaporate at home to a team that was not shooting the ball well at all. I said during Game 3 that any close game in this series favored the Celtics, for several reasons. The Miami Heat are under considerably more pressure to win than the Celtics, both because they have to win the championship, and LeBron and Dwyane need to prove they can make clutch shots. The Celtics, already with a ring in 2008, have not only the maestro Rajon Rondo, the marksman Ray Allen, and the True Grit Marshall Cogburn called Kevin Garnett, but they have a secret weapon named Paul Pierce, who is one of the overlooked clutch players in the NBA. Jay Pharaoh (probably the funniest person on SNL and the best imitator in the world) may call him an actress, but in the clutch, as we saw in Game 5, Paul Pierce will do what LeBron and Dwyane cannot.
People can never take a solid stance on Chris Bosh’s contributions to the Miami Heat. One day Chris Bosh is the problem, the next he’s the reason they’re losing, and the next he’s interfering with a rolling offense.
No, Bosh is not the problem. Nor is he the full solution. The Heat just don’t know how to play team basketball in the half-court. That’s what the problem is when three superstars come together on a team without a great point guard, a legitimate center, or a solid bench. With Bosh out, they do not have a single legitimate scorer outside of Wade and James. Boston has four. OKC and San Antonio have 3 each.
The failure of the Heat, juxtaposed with the success the other three teams remaining before OKC’s victory last night, along with the mess that is the New York Knicks’ superstar experiment, signals the end of the free agent fiasco. If Miami cannot defeat the Celtics tonight at the TD Garden, that will be the end of 3rd ° Burn and the goal of a “Big Three” will cease to exist. The idea of players dictating the formation of teams (with the strange exception of Dwight Howard) is over.
The Miami Heat were my preseason pick to win the Finals, but I believe the Celtics will win tonight and face the Thunder. If that is the case, I think OKC will come away with its first championship ever. There could be many more to follow.
The Long Road Ahead: MLB Regular Season
There are three parts to the MLB season:
1. The early stage, which last from April to June. This time is filled with season-ending injuries, slow starts, and bandwagon favorites. You can’t read into the starts teams and players have too much and you can’t react too quickly to early season stats (“Holy crap what happened to Albert Pujols!?” or “Wow Ubaldo Jimenez is like the best pitcher in history!”).
2. The middle stage, from June to the beginning of September. I like the sport of baseball, but I think the season is just too long. Nothing can be looked at on a game by game, or sometimes even a week by week basis. To me summer in MLB merely sets the stage for the final thrilling months of the season.
3. The end, which lasts from early September through the World Series. Playoff races can be so exciting, as was clearly evident in the final weeks of last season’s campaign. Playoff baseball ramps up the drama even more, and the World Series is must see TV.
An excellent example, I believe, is my own Chicago White Sox team. The season did not start well, and I was ready to accept another dismal year. I was so fed up with Gordon Beckham’s inability to hit the ball and I continued to wonder why they ever signed Adam Dunn. Then, lo and behold, they went on a run, Adam Dunn is earning his salary, and Beckham’s bat is on fire. Hang on a minute though, don’t let the fact that they’re currently leading the AL Central fool you. It’s a long season, and this 14-3 run has covered an entire 19 days. 19 days from now, they could be ten games out of first place.
Unfortunately, we’re not at the end yet, so for now, I’ll be content with catching the occasional ChiSox game on WGN. I’ll spend my sports-watching time with Euro 2012, the X Games, and the Olympics.
Summer Movie Bonanza
Men in Black III was the first movie I had seen in theaters for a long time. It was definitely worth seeing. I have my doubts, but I’ll go see The Dark Knight Rises anyway. I can’t wait until Prometheus comes out, not so I can see it, but so I can stop seeing the freaking trailers on TV. I still don’t know what the black guy is yelling out. Overall, I’m not entirely sure what to expect from the rest of this summer’s movies.
Speaking of over-advertised movies, I am more intrigued by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter every time I see a trailer for it. I wish vampires in Hollywood and TV would get a heavy dose of sunlight or be served a large loaf of garlic bread, but this looks interesting all the same.
I saw a 3D preview for The Amazing Spiderman when I saw Phantom Menace in 3D this winter, and a sequence where the audience took the first-person view of Peter Parker running, jumping, and gliding about the rooftops of New York blew me away. That being said, the movie itself looks pretty weak, and I think I’ll pass on this unnecessary reboot.
Speaking of reboots, if you didn’t know it, a new Bourne film is coming out. Yes, like Jason Bourne, only it’s not about Jason Bourne. Jeremy Renner stars as Aaron Cross in The Bourne Legacy. I liked the original trilogy well enough (except the second one), so I might give this one a chance. Alright, enough of that, back to sports.
Finally Some Futbol: Euro 2012
I really like soccer. I love the culture of the soccer fan. The chants, the scarves, all of it. It’s strange really, considering that I have never played it organized and rarely play it in the backyard. When there isn’t a major event like the World Cup I almost never watch it on TV, unless I happen to wake up early enough on a Saturday morning to see some first rate team obliterating some second rate team in the EPL. That’s why I’m excited for Euro 2012. For three weeks there will be a steady stream of great soccer games on TV. And not even on some janky channel that I don’t have. I can actually watch some decent soccer, and I won’t even have to DVR it. Go Sweden!
Summer X Games: It’s about to get Real
I can’t take my bike off any jumps. I have never driven a Moto X bike. I can barely stand on a skateboard. That’s why I love the X Games even more, because I realize how ridiculously amazing, or, to use appropriate X Games lingo, “rad,” the stuff these guys do is. The world of extreme sports is so foreign to me, but for four days I feel right at home. Although I’ll admit, when Tony Hawk and Sal Masekela are speaking their halfcab frontside 180 50-50 gibberish, I get a little lost. Still, I can appreciate someone hurtling through the air with a bike, twisting and flipping over concrete, and landing it smoothly, only to zoom off to another jump and do it all over again.
Summer Olympic 2012: Going for Gold
There is plenty to be excited about with the Summer Olympics. No athletic event is so global and so inclusive. Where else can a young African man escape from a war-torn country to compete against the best runners in the world? When would you ever get to see professional swordfighting, archery, trap-shooting, or water polo? For a brief shining moment, male gymnasts are really cool. The Summer Olympics are a time to just sit and watch the greatest athletes in all sports from all countries compete. Of course, accidents do happen, and the occasional guy slams into the horse during the vault, and now and then someone gets hit by a flying javelin, but it’s all good fun, right? Two storylines to watch: Michael Phelps (will he continue his dominance or is he past his prime? How many footlong sandwiches will he eat?) and Usain Bolt (will he set a new world record? Is he actually a human being?).
The French Open could be setting up for a thrilling final. I suppose it’s a given that Rafa will make it to the final, but he will have to earn it, as Ferrer played very well in defeating Andy Murray. I wouldn’t mind seeing either Novak Djokovic (who is gradually becoming one of my favorite athletes (grunts like a man, wears cool shirts, is from a small country, funny, great player, wears a neat cross necklace, has a beautiful girlfriend who actually seems to care about and understand his matches)) or Roger Federer in the final. Even though I like Djokovic, I have said that I think Federer, in order to be named the best tennis player of all-time, must defeat Rafael Nadal, the king of clay, at the French Open Final. Either way, we could be in for some great tennis.
I have a bad feeling about GOOD Music’s (Kanye Wests’ record company) upcoming album Cruel Summer. Obviously anything that Kanye is involved with is going to be musically outstanding, but the content and message of his music has just so deteriorated. I was kind of disgusted by the latest single, Cold. His music today and his first (and best) album, The College Dropout, have very little in common. Then, he rapped about family, religion, and the economic struggles of urban Blacks (and there was a little weed, women, and wealth thrown in). Today, it’s all this bogus luxury or couture rap, about how much money and women he has. The GOOD Music crew is full of outstanding artists, so it would really be shame if they mess up this collaboration.
It’s great to be back! I missed writing this blog, and I hope I can consistently write informative, interesting, unique, and humorous articles that you will all love to read. Please comment and start discussions. Like, give me a rating. Post to Facebook and Twitter, tell your friends, and subscribe!