LEGACIES WILL BE TARNISHED OR LIFTED FOR LEBRON JAMES AND MANU GINOBLI BASED ON TONIGHT'S GAME 7 OUTCOME
Legacies will strengthened or tarnished based on tonight's Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
At stake for the Miami Heat is a second consecutive NBA title or a sobering somber finish to a spectacular regular season that could signal the end of the Big 3 and a rebuilding project for Pat Riley and the Heat's front office brass.
For the San Antonio Spurs NBA Finals perfection is being tested by the Fighting LeBron's. The Spurs were a mere 28.2 seconds away from a perfect 5-0 record in Finals appearances in the Tim Duncan era. Then a series of miscues stymied the Spurs and forced them to play a Game 7 on the Heat's home floor.
For LeBron James a win tonight might be his greatest achievement. Make no mistake, the truly special players are judged on Championships. When you get there, you better win. LeBron is 1-2 in Finals entering tonight. A loss would make him 1-3 and would clearly show a chink in the armor of the self-proclaimed King James.
There probably is not a more important figure for the Spurs than Manu Ginobli. There is so much riding on his Game 7 performance. Aside from Game 5, Ginobli has been dreadful in the series. If the Spurs come up short, his legacy will take a hit. His struggles in Game 6 were so glaring he is having the basketball world question his abilities. No one is having their "star status" questioned like Ginobli. He can answer those questions with a solid performance tonight
Ironically I don't believe ANY of the other players in this series have as much at stake personally as these two players do. If LeBron wins title number two (Back-to-Back) his greatness will get that TITLE SHINE STAMP of approval. But losing three-of-four NBA Finals and the vulchers will circle, driving him into an off-season of soul searching and wonder.
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker of the Spurs and Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh of the Heat don't nearly have as much at stake personally on the outcome of tonight's game as Bron and Manu. For the most part, legacies have been determined and NBA stories writtien.
It's Decision Day. Who will wear it ? Who will take it ?
THE SPURS COULDN'T HOLD A FIVE-POINT LEAD IN THE FINAL 28.2 SECONDS
In professional sports you usually only get one chance to put the proverbial dagger in an opponent and win a series. The teams, the players they are all just too good. So, when the opportunity presents itself you MUST take advantage of it and seal the deal.
This Game 6 loss by the San Antonio Spurs will haunt that franchise in perputuity if they do not win Game 7. They had so many chances to win the game and the series, yet couldn't deliver the dagger.
First, you must make your free throws. Critical misses late by Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Kawai Leonard allowed the Heat to hang around for a bit longer than they should. What is surprising is usually veteran teams and veterans make their charity shots. Not last night and it could prove fatal for San Antonio.
Second, one of the strengths for the Spurs in this series has been their ability to rebound the basketball and their dominance inside. Holding the Heat to one-and-done by clearing defensive rebounds. There were two critical sequences in the final :30 seconds last night where Miami's LeBron James missed three-pointers, yet the Spurs couldn't clear a defensive rebound. By not pulling the boards it resulted in TWO MADE trifectas by both James (:21 secs left) and Ray Allen (5.2 secs left.) If you play great defense but don't pull the defensive, it really doesn't matter how well you played defense. That is why defensive rebounding is coveted in the Association.
Third, this is probably the most inexplicable of all the Spurs meltdowns. It comes from their Hall of Fame coach Greg Popovich. The man who I thought would run circles around Erik Spoelstra in this series. But, last night was a John McNamara (Boston Red Sox 1986) moment for Pop. There were so many late game head scratchers from Pop I really don't know where to start.
He removes Tim Duncan with a five point lead with 28.2 seconds left because he wants better perimeter defense as the Heat ready themselves for three-point try late in regulation. The result was the inability to pull the defensive board because you don't have your best player on the floor, a 7-footer who had dominated the boards all night.
He then re-inserts Duncan, only to pull him from the game again with the Spurs up three (95-92) with :18 secs left. Again, the Heat miss a three but pull the offensive rebound leading to the Ray Allen tying three sending the game into overtime.......Guh !
Popovich also told assembled media that he doesn't foul to prevent a three point shot when leading by three points with under :15 seconds left. "Its something we don't do," he said. Well, you might want to think about doing it next time Pop.
Pop's final foible was having Tony Parker off the floor with no timeouts, down by three in the waning seconds with only a Manu Ginobli as the Spurs true ball-handler and trying to get a final shot off. When you don't have timeouts, and you can't rely on a dead-ball situation. You must have your play-maker on the floor. Instead, the Spurs were relegated to Ginobli who was making horrible decisions all night long, and he was your primary decision maker at the end of OT.
If the Spurs beat the Heat on Thursday Game 6 will be forgotten, but if the Spurs lose Game 7, the meltdown on Tuesday night will haunt this proud franchise forever.
IS THIS GUY HURT OR IS IT JUST THE TYPICAL DRAMA WE SEE ON A GAME-BY-GAME BASIS FROM DWADE
I don't doubt that Dwayne Wade has a few aches and pains as he plays basketball but do we have to see him go through all the histrionics on a game-by-game basis ? By looking at Wade one would think he had just been in a car accident and it has taken all the energy he can muster just to "valiantly" take the court. His performance throughout the post-season ALMOST made me believe he was actually injured, then Game 4 happened.
In Game 4 Wade was his normal dominant self. Crisp cuts, springy legs, explosiveness. He scored 32 points pulled down 6 rebounds, had 5 assists and 5 steals. He dominated the game in almost every facet. Someone who is injured or hurt does not play like that. Even with that performance there were numerous times he was knocked to the ground and would rise to his feet like he was an 85 year-old man.
Wade's performances and antics are not heroic. They just show a player who loves having the attention on himself. Whether he is performing at a high level or whether he wants to give the appearance he is playing through some kind of battle-wound. His prima-donna ways are the ultimate in self-adulation. "Look at me, I'm Dwayne Wade and I'm important."
I will take Wade for what he is. Once, a fine ball-player who could be admired for his drive and determination. Now, just someone who is squeezing every ounce of public sentiment that he can grab by feigning injury and trying to give the impression he is playing through some type of excruciating pain....How about this Dwayne ? How about just playing and not letting anyone know you might be dinged up a bit.
ANOTHER HEART-BREAKING DAY FOR THE MUCH BELOVED PHIL MICKELSON IN SEARCH OF A U.S. OPENTITLE
As long as I can remember I have loved Phil Mickelson. Maybe its because I'm a lefty too. Maybe its because we are so close in age. Or, maybe its because in all of Phil's greatness we see his imperfections, and know that we are imperfect too.
Yesterday Mickelson took his legion of fans on another wild ride as he flirted with his first US Open Championship only to come agonizingly short once again. That is now SIX 2nd place finishes in the tournament. After yesterday's near miss, Mickelson admitted what we all know. It is "heart-breaking" to come this close and not wrap your hands around that trophy.
Mickelson was as steady as ever throughout the weekend and seemed primed and ready to win his first Open. But, from the outset we could see this could be a struggle. He was missing fairways and even when he put himself in postion to make a putt, he would either lip out or come within inches of hitting the bottom of the cup.
Phil Mickelson is a modern day Arnold Palmer in terms of how much he is beloved by his fans. While Tiger Woods was winning tournaments and giving us those cold icy answers, Mickelson would punctuate his greatness with those, "Oh shucks" moments. While Tiger was cavorting with strippers and porn stars, Mickelson was at home with his wife and his kids. While Tiger was living the high life, Mickelson was home nursing his wife through cancer.
We see the best in ourselves in Phil Mickelson, and this is why his losses hurt so much.
We can all relate to Phil Mickelson. We all have skills. We all have talents, but sometimes we just can't meet our own lofty expectations. So is the case in being a fan of Phil, we see ourselves in his triumph. We see ourselves in his disappointments. Yet, we keep coming back to be part of Phil's Army. Because if we give up on him, we give up on ourselves.
There is a fine line between being a supportive parent who helps guide their child through their adolescent athletic endeavors and the parent who is completely delusional. Sadly, I am seeing more of the latter these days.
Don't get me wrong, those parents who cheer and support their kids are my FAVORITE types of parents. From the time I was five years-old to when I was 18 and playing American Legion baseball, my mother missed a total of three games. THREE !!! I played baseball and basketball every year for 14 years, and she wouldn't miss it for the world. These types of amazing role models are exactly what great parents should be, supporting, nurturing and enjoying the games with their children. Allowing their off-spring to have fun and play.
Then we have the delusional parents. You've seen them. You've heard them. They are the parents who are experts on all things athletically related. In a lot of cases they coach their own kids because "no one knows my kid's swing like I do." They believe that they hold the holy grail to athletic achievement for their child and if they guide them through their Little League, AAU and youth football years they will have the tools to be a big-time baseball, basketball, football, tennis, golf, player.
The problem is these parents live in their own LOCAL little world. There is an honest belief that if my kid is good here in Chico, they will dominate on the big stage. Its a simple fallacy coming from a lack of perspective from a parent who, either hasn't played, or has no clue that there are other talented players all over the state, country and world. In an odd conundrum they suffer from the Aaron Rodgers syndrome. They saw Chico's favorite son go from talented, yet under-sized high school quarterback, to a blossoming college career at Butte and magnificent maturation into a star at Cal-Berkeley and with the Green Bay Packers. But, there is a problem with this thinking......
Your kid isn't Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers is a once in a lifetime anomoly. Not a fluke, an anomoly. This is not to dissuade kids from working and believing they can be a professional athlete. It certainly can come true. But, when the parents drive and belief is stronger than the child's we see a lack of perspective that leads to cases of burn-out and despising the sport.
In my 25 years of living in Chico I certainly have run into more parents who have been supportive and understand the athletic outlet is for fun and joy. My experience has been dominated with great people who simply enjoy watching their kids play for its simple joy. But, there is the enticement of full-ride scholarships that has these other parents eyes' bulging as a way for their kid to play for pay, with college costs sky-rocketing. These parents get caught up in the belief that their kids are competing for college recognition instead of the "love of the game." I have seen it. I have heard it discussed. It's parents trying to live through their kids, because in all honesty.....they weren't good enough themselves.
I find more novices are over-bearing than those parents who actually competed at a high level in intercollegiate sports or on the professional level. It makes total sense to me. Novices have no life experience with which to draw so they feel since their child is playing in a championship game; THEY are playing in a championship game. Why is this ? Well, they never experienced it, so they vicariously live it through their sons or daughters. It's ironic, those that sometimes are the most passionate are also those that have the least amount of knowledge.
As I've said the vast majority of parents are exactly what supportive parents should be, but it is becoming increasingly easy to spot the over-bearing novice hollering instructions to their kid. And, that, is sad.
THIS IS THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS BULLPEN AND THIS BOX OF PAIN HAS BEEN DOLING OUT TORTURE ALL SEASON LONG AT CHAVEZ RAVINE. TRUE TORTURE IN SADISTIC FORM
San Francisco Giants fans like to affectionately call their brand of baseball "torture." The reasoning was the Giants would put their team through an emotional roller-coaster when either winning or losing games. The Giants appeared to take pride in making things difficult. It was cutesy, but really not believable.
When you win two World Championships in three years there is nothing torturous about it. Sorry, you don't get to corner the market on "torture." Let's look at the definition of said word; the infliction of intense pain, as from burning, crushing or wounding. To punish, coerce or afford sadistic pleasure. Ahhhh, now we are getting somewhere.
True torture is reserved for teams that are not as successful as the Giants. I was thinking about this last night as I watched the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen meltdown for the umpteenth time in a game against a division rival and give another one away. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw pitched seven innings of dominant baseball only to see the Dodgers bullpen, known by Dodger fans as "The Box of Pain," relinquish another lead and ballgame.
Ring-announcer Michael Buffer has copyrighted the phrase, "Lets Get Ready to Rumble." Well, no Dodger fan would argue if the 2013 Dodgers coined the term "Box of Pain" This group has been true "torture" to watch. It is true torture knowing that your own personal Box of Pain will inflict intense pain and wound ones' baseball soul.
So, the next time a Giants fan complains of the torture their team is putting them through, I will just roll my eyes. True torture in not buffing your two World Series trophies while complaining about how much stress your team puts you through when they win.
True "torture" is the BOX OF PAIN residing in a little shed in the deeper left field confines of Chavez Ravine.
THE A'S ARE WINNING AND YOENIS CESPEDES ISN'T EVEN HITTING YET...LOOK OUT
Why are we surprised this is happening again. The Oakland Athletics are on a mad dash to greatness once again. They have a line-up devoid of any superstar and have built through trades and the draft. Just how Billy Beane envisions it.
The A's incredible final six weeks of the 2012 season has been transported to a May-Bonanza in 2013. Oakland is surging, winning 15 of their 17 and putting a ton of heat on the Texas Rangers. How are they doing it ? Simple. Their pieces fit.
Billy Beane knows he can't afford paying superstars the big bucks. The A's and their scouts have to be nearly flawless in player evaluations to make sure the team they are assembling....fits. A mixture of power and speed that gets on base and produces runs. Its pretty obvious he puts a fair amount of credence on chemistry and comraderie. The A's all pull in the same direction. Areas of perceived weakness can be nullified by a team that trusts and believes in one another to the point of self-sacrifice to pick each other up.
The A's pitching staff is a tremendous strength. Young, hard-throwing starters that have been obtained through great scouting and saavy trades put Oakland ahead of the curve. Their bullpen is the envy of big money spenders (Dodgers, Angels) everywhere. With Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle setting up Grant Balfour, there is a level of competiveness that you just don't see from the teams that rub dollar bills on their hairy chests.
The A's aren't going anywhere. They are, where they are supposed to be. Climbing toward first place in a battle for the post-season. Don't be surprised this is exactly where the A's are supposed to be.