Thursday, May 31, 2007

As Kobe's World Turns

So, Tuesday Kobe said he is a Laker forever. Wednesday, he said he wanted to be traded and there was nothing that could change his mind. Later in the day, it sounded like he talked to Phil and changed his mind. What a drama queen.

Wilbon on Kobe

Kobe says he wants out of Los Angeles, wants the Lakers to trade him because he feels the team hasn't kept its promise to rebuild a contender around him, and because he feels one of the team's executives has told reporters in L.A. that it was Kobe who more or less endorsed Shaq being traded to Miami after the 2004 season.
There's more intrigue in the latest Kobe reality show than the last hour of "The Good Shepherd." There's Kobe going public with his trade demand.

There's his request that former Lakers boss Jerry West put off retirement to come back from Memphis and fix the Lakers. There's an implicit suggestion that current Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has been inadequate in the specific area of acquiring talent -- which is true. There's "he-said," innuendo, revision of history and plenty of hurt feelings.

By late Wednesday afternoon, Jackson had gotten hold of Kobe, who did a tiny little backslide on his trade demand in an ESPN interview with Dan Patrick. And by late evening in California, the backslide had turned into a full backpedal with Kobe telling the populace how much he wanted to stay in La-La.

Either way, this is one May cliffhanger that isn't going to hold until fall.
Bryant isn't going anywhere. The Lakers aren't going to trade him and shouldn't. West, arguably the greatest basketball executive who ever lived other than Red Auerbach, will get over being steamed at Kobe, push retirement away for a couple of years or so and ultimately save the Lakers. Within the next 48 hours, Kobe will have talked again with Jackson, also with West, also with owner Jerry Buss, who preferred Kobe over Shaq three years ago, and will conclude it was all a misunderstanding. We'll hear inside a week or so that they're all on the same page, that Kobe was simply demonstrating the great passion he has for the team, its fans and winning championships, which is what he's about.

We'll hear Kobe say he was serious at the time, that his feelings were hurt, but that the club has promised him -- the great West has promised him -- that whatever happened the last three years is over and that the team will do whatever it has to do to return to championship form.

But it won't keep all parties from viewing each other with suspicion.

Bill Simmons proposes many trades for Kobe, one with Dallas

Dallas trades Josh Howard, Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse (sign-and-trade starting at $7.3 million per) for Kobe.

Comments: I'm intrigued by this one because (A) the Lakers would be competitive with a Howard-Terry-Odom-Bynum nucleus; (B) Kobe would solve all of Nowitzki's toughness/crunch-time problems; and (C) Dallas could probably win a title with Kobe, Nowitzki, the Diop/Dampier combo, Devin Harris and seven guys they found on the street. But would the Lakers ever trade Kobe to a Western contender? And would Cuban ever admit that Dirk was irrevocably damaged by the 2006 Finals and the Warriors-Mavs series, to the degree that he needed to acquire another crunch-time guy? If the Mavs didn't have the testicular fortitude to pull off a Shaq trade three years ago, they won't have the gulliones to go after Kobe.

Playoffs are all about LeBron …right now, anyway…

Give me the choice of the Detroit Pistons coming out of the Eastern Conference finals or LeBron James going into the championship series – with whomever are those other guys on his team – and I’ll take James without hesitation.

More than I care about a possible San Antonio-Cleveland matchup in the NBA Finals, I want to see if this extraordinarily gifted 22-year-old can reach almost impossible expectations and secure the trophy that ultimately validates a star’s portfolio.
Fickle? Oh, yeah. Two games ago, the basketball-talkers were knotted up over James’ failures against the Pistons.

In Game 1, James whipped a pass to an open 3-point shooter in the final moments rather than taking the ball in for a power dunk. The shot missed and it became James’ fault.

In Game 2, he tried to force the last shot in traffic, but got tangled with a defender in an airborne struggle, and missed.

With James playing as a mere mortal (scoring just 29 points total), Cleveland trailed 0-2, and the series was labeled as insufferably boring.

Two Cleveland wins and 57 James points later, the suddenly compelling Eastern Conference finals are tied up heading into tonight’s game. And James stands on the threshold of becoming a star to headline the NBA for the next 10 or 15 seasons.
Miami’s Dwyane Wade led the Heat to last season’s title, and shares some of the qualities with James that could lead to transcendent stardom.

But James has held a place in basketball fans’ consciousness since his midteens. He signed a shoe contract for $90 million when he was 18.

The second he stepped on the floor, straight out of high school, he was among the most physically imposing players in the league.

Under the pressure of constant scrutiny, James has somehow managed to avoid any of the prevalent NBA knuckleheadedness.

He’s a vocal leader on his team, without apparent self-absorption. His postgame interviews are more analytical and insightful than most veterans can supply. He even seems like a fairly decent actor/dancer/performer while assuming a number of personae in his Nike commercials.

And his game? The drives and dunks are highlight staples, and he’s a spectacular passer. He could improve his free-throw and perimeter shooting.

He put in 32 points in Game 3 to get the Cavs back into the series, and then stepped up with 13 points in the fourth quarter of Game 4 on Tuesday to finish with 25 points and 11 assists. He netted a critical 3-pointer and then made a pair of lethal free throws in the final seconds.

I’ll admit it: The series is now interesting because of LeBron James. The Finals need him. The NBA needs him.

Oh, yeah. Spurs are in the Finals …whoopee

Four months ago, the Spurs had reason to wonder about their mortality. They were old and unathletic, former champions with lead legs and graying beards, trudging toward retirement instead of a title.

With the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns surging to the top of the standings, the Spurs conceded the division and No. 1 playoff seed and clung to the same two-word mantra they've always kept close: Keep improving.

The Spurs did just that. They strengthened their defense. Their aging shooters relocated their touch.

And four months later, with a sellout crowd filling the AT&T Center on Wednesday night, the Spurs overwhelmed the Utah Jazz 109-84, then pulled on their Western Conference champion T-shirts and hats and celebrated their fourth trip to the NBA Finals.

"It feels great to be back," Tim Duncan said. "It feels great to be back."
The Spurs will have a week to rest and prepare before opening the Finals on June 7 against Detroit or Cleveland, their reward for dismissing the Jazz in five games.
Duncan and Tony Parker made sure the Spurs didn't have to work any harder than needed, each scoring 21 points, neither playing more than 28 minutes. Manu Ginobili had 12 and Fabricio Oberto, whose hustle and headiness helped steady the Spurs throughout the series, had seven points and 10 rebounds.

"We started off the season up and down, up and down," said Robert Horry, who is going after his seventh championship. "All the good teams in the league were getting streaks and rolling. We didn't put it together, so I said hopefully, it's a sign we'll put it together late.

Ducks beat the Senators in another quality contest

Two games into the Stanley Cup finals and the scorecard for the Ducks' checking line reads as follows:

Shut down the Ottawa Senators' vaunted scoring line of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. Check. Account for the game-winning goal in each game. Check. Put the Ducks two wins away from their first championship. Check.

Samuel Pahlsson came up with the late heroics this time at the Honda Center on Wednesday night as he ended a scoreless duel with 5 minutes 44 seconds remaining in the Ducks' 1-0 victory in Game 2, which gave them a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.

Game 3 is Saturday at Ottawa.

History is firmly on the side of the Ducks. Only three teams have rebounded from a 2-0 deficit to win a seven-game Stanley Cup series — the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1966 and 1971 Montreal Canadiens.

It gets better. Thirty teams have won the first two games at home since the seven-game format was instituted in 1939, and 29 have gone on to win the Cup.

On to baseball, Newberg on Teixeira

If Texas is to trade Teixeira, shouldn't the Dodgers and Braves be considered extremely strong candidates, if not the strongest two? The local media doesn't seem to think so.

A lot can change if Dunn hits the market, and if A-Rod hits the market (doesn't his opt-out seem to draw closer to an inevitability every day lately?), and Todd Helton and Torii Hunter and maybe even Miguel Tejada and Troy Glaus. Right now Teixeira stands to be the prize catch, which is not to say he wouldn't be even if all those others are dangled. But if the July buyers can get a Helton or Glaus for significantly less than it would take to get Teixeira, that's when Texas loses some leverage in terms of what price in players it can put on its star first baseman.

Maybe the Rangers can't get what Oakland got for Mark Mulder (Haren, Daric Barton, Kiko Calero) or what Cleveland got for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew (Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, Lee Stevens). And Texas doesn't have to trade Teixeira at all, let alone in 2007.

But as I discussed in my May 16 and May 25 reports, it seems inevitable that, strategically, the Rangers will have to trade Teixeira this summer or this winter unless they believe they will be able to sign him long-term after the 2008 season.

Again, I don't want Teixeira traded. But it may be inescapable at this point.

Seems to me that the best chances for it to be this summer would be if the Dodgers or Braves were to step up.

And Adam Morris gets us ready for the 2007 MLB Draft with good stuff. And Organizational Over-view A look at the Doug Melvin Drafts …and A review of the Hart/Fuson/Daniels drafts since

Rangers lose!

If the Rangers were able to pull back and observe their series with Oakland from a distance, they'd have seen the only two things keeping them from contending in the AL West.

•Strong starting pitching.

•An efficient offense.

Oakland, which has gone to the playoffs five times since 2000, clinched the three-game
series Wednesday with a perfectly methodical 6-1 win.

Starter Dan Haren lulled the Rangers' bats to sleep. The Oakland offense squeezed runs
out of virtually every opportunity it encountered against John Koronka.

"I thought we had a chance to break through against him, but every time I thought we had a chance, he made a pitch," manager Ron Washington said. "But he got a lead and once he gets a lead, those guys over there know how to run to the wall and catch the ball. That's what he does."

Haren threw strikes and watched the Rangers hit balls helplessly into the wind. He got 18 of his 24 outs on fly balls (14) or strikeouts (4).

The A's meanwhile, took advantage of a leadoff walk in the first, turning it into a two-run inning. They tacked on single runs in the third, fifth and sixth against Koronka with a pair of bunts and a pair of sacrifice flies playing key roles.

All those little things added up to a big margin. By the end of the sixth, Koronka was out of the game and the A's led, 6-1. It was the second time in the series – and the 20th game in 53 this season – that the Rangers have trailed by at least five runs.

"They got a couple of doubles, a sac fly and an infield hit," Washington said. "You scratch out runs, that's what happens."

The Rangers haven't done a particularly good job of scratching out runs.

They seem to keep struggling with the idea of making the opposing starting pitcher work hard early. On Wednesday, it was as if they started down that path, then forgot all about it in mid-game.

They made Haren throw 79 pitches through the first four innings, but just 37 over his next four.

At one point, Haren retired 11 consecutive Rangers.

"In the late innings, we come out and have some good at-bats," said shortstop Michael Young, who had a two-pitch flyout in the fifth. "We're battling late, but we have to do a better job earlier in the game."

Chris Young dominates …Again…

Chris Young dominated the Pittsburgh Pirates again, allowing four hits over seven innings in the Padres' 9-0 victory Wednesday night, their eighth shutout of the season.

Young, a former Pirates farmhand, walked one and struck out seven. Pittsburgh has managed seven hits in 23 2-3 career innings against Young (6-3).

“I think certain guys match up better against certain teams, and he obviously matches up well against us,” said Jason Bay, who had one of only two extra-base hits against Young. “The three times he's thrown, obviously, we don't have a lot of him figured out yet.”

Khalil Greene's grand slam in the eighth inning gave San Diego a 7-0 lead. The Padres have won four of five and seven of nine and remain one game behind the Dodgers and a half-game behind the Diamondbacks in the NL West.

The Pirates, who won the series opener Tuesday, had won four of five.

“It was a good win for us,” Young said. “I felt good. For the most part, I was able to execute my pitches pretty well. I had decent fastball command and for me that's my bread and butter. On nights when I'm able to put my fastball where I want, I'll take my chances.”

In his two previous starts against Pittsburgh – both last season – Young took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. His no-hit bid June 4 at PNC Park lasted 5 1-3 innings and he allowed two hits in eight shutout innings. On Sept. 22, in San Diego, Young lost a no-hitter with one out in the ninth on Joe Randa's two-run homer.
Still, Young downplayed his supremacy over Pittsburgh.

“You've got to get up for every game,” Young said. “It's the big leagues and if you don't have your good stuff, teams are going to make you pay. Regardless of who it is, I just try to focus on making
good pitches and try to execute my game plan. Some nights it works out and other nights it doesn't.”

Pittsburgh had 11 players on the roster who had faced Young before Wednesday, and they were a combined 3-for-49 (.061) against him. The Pirates went 4-for-24 (.167) against Young on Wednesday.

Rookiepedia rates the top 15 …And there is our favorite Aggie…

1 Greg Oden
7'1" 245 19 Ohio State

2 Kevin Durant
6'10" 190 18 Texas

3 Al Horford
6'9" 235 20 Florida

4 Yi Jianlian
7'1" 230 19 China

5 Brandan Wright
6'10" 210 19 North Carolina

6 Corey Brewer
6'8" 185 21 Florida

7 Mike Conley
6'1" 170 19 Ohio State

8 Julian Wright
6'9" 220 19 Kansas

9 Jeff Green
6'8" 225 20 Georgetown

10 Joakim Noah
6'11" 230 22 Florida

11 Spencer Hawes
7'1" 230 19 Washington

13 Acie Law
6'3" 185 22 Texas A&M

14 Thaddeus Young
6'8" 210 18 Georgia Tech

15 Tiago Splitter
7'1" 240 22 Brazil

England football wages are going way up

The average Premier League footballer will earn around £1.1million a year next season, according to a new report.

The annual review of football finance by Deloitte also predicts the bumper new TV rights package will see the first £10million-a-year player within three seasons.

The reports shows wages last year shot up by 9% in the top flight in England.

Dan Jones, partner of Deloitte's sports business group, said a 3% wage fall in 2004-05 now appeared to be just a blip in the overall upward trend.

Jones said: 'We do expect the average annual earnings for a Premier League player next season will be in the region of £1.1million and that over the next three years we will see English football's first player to earn £10million per annum from a club, equivalent to £200,000 per week.'

The review also shows a huge gap in wages paid by Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool compared to the rest of the Premiership.

However, spending power among all Premier League clubs is now far superior to comparable sides in Italy and Spain.

Jones said the wage rise could be explained by clubs anticipating the extra income from the £2.7billion TV deal that comes on stream from next season.

That would also explain why overall operating profits were down 15% - but are expected to double next season.

There is also concern at the widening gap between the Premier League and Coca-Cola Championship clubs. The gap between the average club revenue for each league was a record £56million in 2005-06 and is likely to increase to over £70million next season.

Championship clubs' total wage costs for 2005-06 increased by 5% to £228million - just twice the wage bill for Chelsea alone.

Don’t run on the pitch

Nashy, Nashy!

And even more! With or Without You!


Andy D. said...

With the goings on the past couple of days, I am now obsessed with the Kobe Bryant story. If we can get Kobe here without getting rid of Dirk that is solid, but the trade that makes me barf is the supposed Suns trade to acquire Kobe.

According to Bill Simmons: Marion, Barbosa, 2008 first round pick from ATL, and some other guy for Bryant and Radmonovic. After they do that, they would send Stoudamire to Minn for KG. For some reason when Simmons is not writing about his Sox or Celtics, he is obsessed with how great Pheonix is and can be. Why is that? Annoying and ridiculous.

MK said...

Gotta love it when Simmons writes a Peter Vecsey column.

I hope Lebron decides he wants to be in the Finals.

Jay, Christi and Andrew said...

I'm torn on the finals. I'd love to see Lebron go, but I think Detroit would have a little more possibility in stopping the Sad Sacks.

There's no way Kobe is being traded, and even if he does, it won't be to the Western conference and even more so it won't be within their division. Simmons is a great writer, but his biases get old REAL fast. Makes him sound stupid.

So, are we going to get like a season finale blog from Bob with his thoughts on the major shows? I think everyone's had the chance to watch them all now. It's been a week and sports is sucking. I don't even get Versus to watch the finals.

MK said...

Congrats to Kobe for finding new ways for me to despise him. Looks like he'll be shopping for another big diamond ring to apologize to the Lakers. Everything about him is completely manufactured, no authenticity. I would love to see him moved to hoops purgatory (Atlanta).

TheDude said...

Please please PLEASE, if you care at all about the Rangers (I'm speaking to both of you), you must read Adam's blog. He obviously knows the Rangers, but most importantly, he has the most level-headed analysis of anyone I've ever heard of or read.

It's very easy to snipe at Hicks for his inanity, JD for his bad trades, and Wash for head-scratching moves, all while ignoring the good things that they do (OK, maybe not so much on Hicks). But Adam digs deeper and catches things like: Doug Melvin isn't all that great after all, what is really our next option if JD is fired, step away from the ledge before trading EVERYONE away, and best of all, Why the Rangers have been so bad this year.