Tuesday, June 13, 2006

In Praise of Ericka

David Moore writes about Big Damp

This is the player O'Neal has derided as Ericka Dampier? This is the athlete O'Neal maintained would have a hard time being the second-best center in the WNBA?

"Obviously, we made some comments back and forth last year," Dampier said. "I think that's behind us now."

The entire Heat roster was behind Dampier when he threw down two monster dunks on the fast break in the third quarter of Sunday's victory. The fans notice those moments.

These are the moments Dampier's teammates notice:

•Seconds after he entered Sunday's Game 2, Dampier shielded O'Neal from disrupting the pick-and-roll, followed Jason Terry to the basket to rebound his missed layup and then kicked the ball right back out to Terry for an open 12-foot jumper.

•Moments later, the Mavericks center sealed O'Neal under the basket and tipped a defensive rebound out to start a fast break.

•All of the times Dampier beat O'Neal to his spot, forcing Miami's force of nature to catch the ball farther out than he likes.

•One of the few times Dampier let O'Neal get too deep in Game 2, he held his ground and went straight up to contest a jump hook. The shot was short, and Dampier grabbed the rebound.

•When Alonzo Mourning jumped out on pick-and-roll to keep Terry from going over the top, Dampier recognized it, bolted to the basket, took a return pass and was fouled. He hit both free throws, equaling O'Neal's output from the foul line for the series.
None of this will make the highlights, but it is effective.

"Damp has taken our center position to another level, because he's played much more efficient this year than he was last year," Johnson said.

The Heat look for anything to turn the playoffs

The Heat is 8-1 at home in these playoffs. It's 20-4 since Dwyane Wade's rookie year. No, it never has played a team as good as Dallas, which has been good enough on the road to close out every series this year -- at Memphis, San Antonio and Phoenix.

If you're the Heat and looking for toeholds of optimism right now, it's that Wade and O'Neal can't play be expected to play three sub-par games in a row. That's where this night starts and certainly where this series does if it ever really starts for the Heat.

It's telling of how the two Heat starters reacted to Sunday's loss. It also is opposite of how you might expect considering their standing in the league.

Wade, at 24, in his third year, went to an interview stage after the game and took every question asked of him. He displayed a maturity that he didn't in his unusual game on the court, as well as a touch with answers that revealed he'd be fine next game.

For instance, what had to change for the Heat to succeed?

"Everything," he said, even smiling.

Meanwhile, O'Neal, 34, one of the league's franchise players, ducked all questions. It was something to behold. You can think players can talk or not talk to the media, depending on their wont. But what does it say when one of the league's franchise players, who's intensely liked by the media, plays his worst playoff game and leaves his teammates to answer for it?

O'Neal even walked off into the night muttering that he just had five shots. Accountability, by such standards, went out the window. It was the biggest star for himself.

2-3-2 Format discussion

Okay, Heat fans, how ya want it, sugarcoated, or right between the eyes?
The more palatable version is that, yes, it can be done. Teams have come back from an 0-2 deficit in the NBA Finals. Two teams, in fact. The Celtics stunned the Lakers in 1969, and the Trail Blazers came back to beat the 76ers in 1977.

That's two teams out of the 25 that fell behind 0-2 in the previous 59 NBA Finals.

Those odds are not exactly heartening to Miami, which will try to climb out of such a canyon starting with Game 3 tonight at American Airlines Arena.

Nor is it encouraging that it took a frightening brawl to spark one of those two historic shifts, but more on that later.

For now, we'll let Pat Williams, the general manager of that '77 Sixers' collapse, give you the hard version.

"With the new 2-3-2 format, it's a lot harder to do it," Williams said. "It's almost impossible."

True enough. In fact, since 1985, when the league switched the Finals format from 2-2-1-1-1 (meaning two games in city A, two in city B, and then alternating back-and-forth until the end), no team has ever come back from an 0-2 deficit.

Going into these Finals, there were a dozen series since the new format began that started out 2-0, and each time the team that won first won it all. That's 12 for 12.
One theory: In the 2-3-2 format, the team that falls behind 0-2 is at a greater disadvantage because it is virtually forced to win all its home games. In the last 21 seasons, only one team, the 2004 Detroit Pistons, won all three of its home games -- and they arrived at The Palace of Auburn Hills with the series tied 1-1.

"The problem with the 2-3-2, is to win three games at home, that's really tough," said Larry Bird, whose Celtic first fell victim to the new system. "You're supposed to take care of home court, but to beat a team three times in a row in the Finals is very, very tough."

The Celtics of the 1980s were particularly hurt by the new system because it
neutralized their supreme homecourt advantage at the old, quirky, decrepit, steamy Boston Garden, which would turn into a heat chamber in June during the Finals. Red Auerbach hated the new system then, and still does today.

"I don't like it," he said yesterday from his home in Washington. "I think it changed everything. But I'll say this; it should be harder to win two on the road than three at home."

The new system was introduced in part to keep to keep road-weary media members from abandoning the trail, and also to prevent teams from getting worn out traveling -- the Lakers and Celtics were regular foes in the Finals back then, and the Celtics flew on commercial airlines, not plush charters the way teams do today.

"I can remember sitting in the airport in New York at five o'clock in the morning waiting for a connection to Boston," Bird said. "It's completely different with the way they travel now."

Remember Derek Anderson? …The Heat don’t…

Czech Republic 3, USA 0 …ouch.

Four years of planning and expectation, and two years of qualifying, unraveled disastrously in five minutes for the United States at the World Cup in a humiliating 3-0 defeat to the Czech Republic.

As soccer's global championship entered its fourth day on Monday, the reeling Americans suffered the ignominy of the tournament's most lopsided loss so far.
"It was embarrassing," said forward Landon Donovan, who, along with other American starters, was bluntly criticized by United States Manager Bruce Arena.

The United States hoped to possess an edge in speed, fitness and health. But it was the supposedly aging and hobbled Czechs who proved to be the more spry, imaginative and determined team, even with four starters over age 30.

"It's just a shame," said Kasey Keller, the United States goalkeeper. "We definitely gave the game away."

Arena spoke harshly of many of his players, including Keller, saying he was extremely disappointed. He praised Claudio Reyna, the midfielder and captain. Reyna seemed to remain composed, and clanged a low, bouncing shot off the goal post in the 28th minute. Arena also said left wing Bobby Convey "at least had the courage to attack, one of the few players who did."

Donovan, a key member of the 2002 United States team that advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals, described the United States' play as "a little bit lifeless, a little bit unlucky." Asked about Arena's criticism, Donovan said, "Yeah, that's true."
He added: "I didn't get the ball enough. When I did get it, I made some decent plays, but not enough. And maybe just a little more aggressive. I don't think I had a shot on goal. And playing 45 minutes at forward, that's not good enough."

Beasley criticized Arena's positioning of him in the second half, essentially at right back, after defender Steve Cherundolo was removed. "I was back there defending the whole time," Beasley said of Arena's tactical switch. "I don't know what he wants me to do." Beasley added that he did not expect to start in the Americans' next match, against Italy.

Meanwhile, in dumb athlete news: Ben Roethlisberger tries to end his career

Doctors successfully repaired what they said were multiple facial fractures suffered in a motorcycle accident yesterday by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but no one would say how his injuries would affect his ability to play.

The 24-year-old quarterback, who was not wearing a helmet, was in serious but stable condition at Mercy Hospital after undergoing seven hours of surgery performed by a team of four surgeons.

Mr. Roethlisberger was injured in an accident at 11:10 a.m. as his motorcycle collided with a car on Second Avenue near the 10th Street Bridge. Witnesses said his head hit the car's windshield and then struck the pavement.

Dr. Daniel Pituch, chief of Mercy's division of oral and maxillofacial surgery, said Mr. Roethlisberger underwent surgery for multiple facial fractures after being evaluated by the surgical team.

Morgan Spurlock is back! …and so is his mustache…

West Virginia filmmaker who chronicled his decline during a steady diet of fast food in the superpopular documentary "Super Size Me," spent 23 days behind bars for another video report — and discovered, he said, that inmates are not all bad guys.
Morgan Spurlock checked into the Henrico County Jail in February and left with some shattered stereotypes.

"One of them is that you imagine jail, and prison, being filled with all these bad guys," Spurlock told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "And I'll be the first person to say there's people that are locked up who should be locked up. But at the same time, I think there's a lot of good, honest, genuine people in there who made a mistake ... "

Spurlock's experience will air July 26 on the FX network, launching the second season of his "30 Days" documentary series.

Hockey ratings? Who cares if they are bad?

Star Wars is back


Shawn in Lville said...

MY HSO. Tonight is the only game the Mavs lose in this series.

Also doesn't American Airlines have it made? They have the AAC and the AAA in this series.

Go Mavs!

Anonymous said...

Sure, they have it made. Until the Wright Amendment is repealed...

Fake Sturm said...

Damp deserves a ton of credit. To get benched for 6 games and not lose confidence, and then come out and beat Shaq all over the floor. I think Avery deserves a lot of credit also for getting that out of Damp.

USA lost? Does that mean we dont have to share the blog with tired soccer talk any more?

Anonymous said...

"USA lost? Does that mean we dont have to share the blog with tired soccer talk any more?"

I doubt it. He still spares us with tired hockey talk, and the Stars have been out of it for a month.

Sturminator said...

it may be time for the wise guys to scroll to the top and remind themselves whose blog this is...

Anonymous said...

Hey my cousin sings in the shower, maybe we could get her to sing the national anthem at game 6. That's apparently the only qualification you need to sing in Dallas at the NBA Finals, existing vocal chords.

p.s. Team USA looked like chumps yesterday. I guess that means ESPN might have overhyped them just a little? I know this has never happened before, but I'll try to learn how to cope.


Anonymous said...

C'mon Sturm. Just funnin'.

What good is the comments section if we can't have a little anonymous fun at your expense, eh?

Solid blog (and we all keep coming back), but you can't please everyone, right?

Clint in Arlington said...

To all seven of you reading this for the World Cup talk, WATCH UNIVISION!

The morons doing the ESPN broadcasts are the worst TV crews ever, at least you can have wacky homer-call announcing and bikini-clad señoritas on channel 23.

Brandon at GSR said...

"Also doesn't American Airlines have it made? They have the AAC and the AAA in this series."

Not really. They'll simply lose only $150 million this quarter as opposed to $160 million.

And the Wright Amendment still needs to be repealed.

Brandon at GSR said...

And more non-sports comment.

Morgan Spurlock suck.

He's as deceitful as Michael Moore but not quite as skilled as the fat guy at fooling his fans.

Bill said...

I admit that I've been listening in pockets on the Internet from good ol' Colorado, but I haven't heard any talk on what would happen if Dirk got injured tonight and was out for the series. Are the Mavs deep enough to overcome that?

Anonymous said...

As long as we're working in hypotheticals, what if the entire Heat team came down with pneumonia. Could they recover in time to finish the Mavs?