No way out
It’s really tough to not let yourself get sucked into this Warriors team right now. They’re a side which wasn’t expected to do much at all this season by pundits or fans, with an awkward combination of very raw kids; over-the-hill, injury-prone vets clogging salary space and head cases in their line up. They had just changed captains in the off season, and there were whispers about the coach and the front office staff – John Hart in particular.
So to find ourselves well inside the eight in mid-July is surprising to say the least. Even better, they’ve done it with most of their salary cap on the sideline. The team which won against Parramatta two weeks back had an average age of 23, and around 50 NRL caps apiece under their belt. Apart from Brisbane’s injury-ravaged start, there won’t have been many greener sides fielded this year. They were without captain Simon Mannering, Steve Price, Brent Tate, Joel Moon, Lance Hohaia, Jacob Lillyman, Kevin Locke, Sam Rapira and Wade McKinnon, who they’d parted company with earlier in the season. They’ve gotta be $2.5m, easy.
They got Mannering back for the weekend’s match away to Penrith, and turned out the most heroic defensive game I’ve ever seen. Shayne Hayne’s preening, patronising, astoundingly incompetent performance was exactly the kind of spanner which would have seen a slender 12-6 half-time lead become a 12-40 full-time thrashing in pretty much any previous Warriors team. We’ve never handled adversity particularly well round here. But despite what no less an authority than Bob Fulton called “the worst refereeing performance in the last 20 years”, those young dudes just put their heads down and tackled like animals for most of the second half. It put this year’s Origin to shame for tenacity, and created some of the most infuriating, enthralling sport you’ll in this or any other year.
It was a game that will become part of the side’s lore, that will live in the memory of fans forever. But it should also be a salutary lesson in where this club’s strength lies at the moment, and how it should spend its money. This winning streak is not being created by the big dollar Australian imports (though the attitude and work ethic of Michael Luck was written all over that win). It’s young, hard, unflashy home-grown kids who are doing it. They are deserving of their spaces, they’re playing together and for each other, they have incredible chemistry, and it is precisely the latter which I think is most valuable, and makes the rumours swirling around the likes of Steve Matai all the more worrying. Continue reading
This decade: The Lakers are going to fade, and then the Thunder will take over the West. The Thunder will be the Anti-Heat, the Cool.
The narrative: Good vs Evil, Ambition vs Ego, Organic vs Processed, Basketball vs Fame, Homemade vs Store-bought, and (counter-intuitively) the Old Model vs the New. The Heat could become so dominant in 2-3 years time that other superstars have to team up to compete. If CP3 doesn’t join the Super-friends, he will join Carmelo plus one. Continue reading
Note: due to continued f*** ups with their much-advertised, little-supported International League Pass broadband system (which has pretty much shut down since the playoffs arrived, happily), I’ve only watched the two ESPN games so far. So frustrating. I can heartily recommend not giving the NBA any of your money next year, no matter how tempting it might be. The system just doesn’t work.
Anyway, so the Kobe Bryant show did a really nice job on the Thunder last night, in what was one of the strangest games I’ve seen in a while. The Thunder were just manic, as their 17 (!!!) blocked shots/17 turnover performance will attest. And even though KD was able to make it happen a bunch more than in the first game, there was always the sense that LA were going to take this one home.
And, grudgingly, I’m coming round to the idea that this is an LA team you have to respect on some level (the same way you respect the IRD, I guess), and being a straight up Laker Hater is just a bit too easy. They won smart, dirty, tough and fair, hit shots when they needed to, got stops when they needed to, and generally played like NBA champions. The kind who might be banged up and aging, but still know how to break the hearts of a group of young men when their minds are focused.
And they did it all despite having both Ron Artest and Derek Fisher in their starting five. Which kinda boggles the mind. It’s like Phil Jackson’s playing chess against himself at this juncture, putting himself in ever more desperate situations just to keep himself interested. Because that pair are just awful. Continue reading
We’ve already covered a lot on the All Star Weekend, but it’s only appropriate to recap the score of the final game . The West beat the East 146-119. No one played defense and in a fit of awkward nostalgia Shaq and Kobe were awarded co-MVP awards.
Moving on to more important things:
It’s hard to think of another individual who has so thoroughly embraced the joy of being a professional athlete at the pinnacle of their popularity than Shaquille O’neal. What’s more, it’s not expressed through some kind of desperate hedonism – he’s not snorting drugs off the stomach of some coked up hooker, but he is dancing with the JabbaWockeez! Just because he can. Continue reading
So, I just saw that David kindly covered much of this information, so I’ll skip the Dunk Contest (the photo above says it all). Okay, let’s break it down:
The Celebrity Game
I admit, I did not actually watch this. I fast forwarded through the player intros just to see who was playing and the first five minutes just to see what the standard was like. It was a mix of TV stars, Harlem Globetrotters and WNBA players. Kind of offensive to have current WNBA player participate in All-Star Weekend, especially someone like Lisa Leslie, who is a multi-MVP legend of the league AND STILL PLAYING. The Dallas Cowboy’s wide receiver Terrell Owens won MVP.
We’ve hit the half way point in a particularly enthralling NBA season. Time to celebrate the annual NBA All Star weekend! Or, as many affectionately call it, the black Superbowl. It’s being held in Phoenix this year. I’m not sure what their club-scene is like, but they’ll need to make room for about 10,000 groupies , entourages and a bunch of frightened white people. If this sounds racist, I’m only reflecting the common media portrayal of this event. Truth be told, All Star weekend is not about the basketball, it’s about the spectacle.
Finally, the NBA is actually beginning to understand this. So this year, instead of focusing on a skills competition , which is one step away from watching players do the Beep Test, the NBA allowed a game known as H-O-R-S-E to be played. Actually, it was a game of G-E-I-C-O. But they have to make money somehow alright? I mean , how else would they pay for the outdoor parking lot provided for this event? Yeah, it was played outside, perhaps in an attempt to reflect the casual playground nature of the sport. Or maybe, for some reason, they’re afraid this game can’t sustain the attention of a stadium crowd. Next year it will be inside. I’m sure of it. Continue reading