Don’t Draft Russell Westbrook!

If the NBA had a haircut draft, you\'d be number 1!

***If you’re coming from Bruins Nation…please read my rebuttal on TheSportSpin.com (yes, I was wrong…)***

The NBA draft is arguably my favorite day of the year. I love seeing the start of what are promising careers for some and landmark disappointments for others (Nikoloz Tskitishvili 5th overall in 2002).

Every analyst on earth is putting up their mock drafts, so I will spare you that formality (they’re always wrong after the first 3 picks anyway). Instead I will extend a warning to NBA GM’s, particularly those in the 4-9 position in the lottery:

DO NOT DRAFT RUSSELL WESTBROOK!

I know it sounds harsh, but over the past few weeks I’ve seen Westbrook’s stock rise faster than gas prices, and I cannot figure out why. He was a mediocre college player on a team that was basically left to him and Kevin Love when Darren Collison was injured for a chunk of the season.

Yes, he’s a freak athlete and supposedly a ‘lock down’ defender with a huge wingspan (according to Jay Bilas, nobody in the draft has a wingspan under 7 feet). But I have inside information that should be good enough reason for teams to steer clear of Westbrook until the late first round:

My friend Roger, a 6-foot-3 small forward who played for two different Division III schools, LOCKED UP Russell Westbrook in a pick-up game at UCLA last summer.

Yes, I’m serious. I was there. I was on his team. It was me (former high school division V California All-State player, thank you very much), Roger, and three scrubs against Westbrook, Lorenzo Mata, James Keefe, DeAndre Robinson, and a former UCLA football player.

First of all, I have no idea why four UCLA basketball players decided to hone their skills and prepare for the season by dismantling players that couldn’t even make the B-Division championship in intramurals.

But, after the Wooden Center Dream Team had won a couple of games, we had next so I figured it would be fun to say that we played against them. So I, 6-3 with shoes on, guarded the 6-8 (and hideously ugly) Lorenzo Mata, and Roger took Westbrook.

They started off joking around and throwing alley oops that went out of bounds over the basket. Westbrook got a steal and a fast break dunk where he clearly displayed his ‘plus’ athleticism.

Then a funny thing happened, we started winning.

You could see their body language getting a little more serious and MUCH more physical.

Soon enough it deteriorated into a regular old pickup game, complete with arguments, threatened violence, and three-minute long possessions.

Now, as much as I respect my friend’s game, he’s no Bruce Bowen when it comes to defense. His lateral quickness is, let’s just say, lacking. But he certainly is what we call a smart (otherwise known as white) defender.

But in a game to 11 by ones, Roger held soon-to-be top 10 NBA draft pick Russell Westbrook scoreless for the last 6 points or so, and it’s not like he wasn’t trying. Westbrook couldn’t make a jumper, and when he tried to get by Roger he couldn’t, pulling up for a crappy jumper or giving one of his patented ‘jump in the air for five seconds while I figure out what to do’ passes.

We ended up winning the game, and Lorenzo Mata tried to punch Roger in the face before the whole squad stormed off the court in disgust.

I think we lost the next game to five senior citizens but it didn’t really matter. We had our story to tell. By the time we’re in our 60s Russell Westbrook will turn into Baron Davis and Lorenzo Mata will be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

So, that’s my cautionary tale for any team that wants to take Westbrook. In any case Roger can always say that he shut down an NBA player (no matter how bad he turns out) and if Westbrook ends up an all-star we can tell everyone that Roger’s tough love caused Westbrook to work harder and take his game to the next level.

In either case, Roger just has one thing to say: “Russell, tell me how my ass taste!”

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Crappy Gilmore

At least he\'s wearing black pants

 

So I was fortunate enough to attend the Traveler’s Championship on Friday at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, CT. I had never been to a PGA tour event, or any golf tournament for that matter, and I was definitely surprised at what I saw.

Instead of stuffy old men with ascots and pennyloafers, I saw everything from high schoolers to tattooed bikers. And every single one of them was slamming beers and/or smoking cigars. There were concession stands (also known as liquor stores) set up every 20 feet and I’d be surprised if all of them didn’t sell out of aluminum Budweiser bottles.

Oh yeah, the old men were there too, but they certainly weren’t stuffy. As a 70-year-old man purchased yet another beer, I heard his wife whisper to him, “that’s enough….you’re gonna get sick!” Isn’t that what you picture when you think of a golf tournament, old men getting hammered and puking in the hole at the 17th green?

 

Since I had no idea where I was going (at one point a security guard saw me wandering around and said, ‘Sir, are you ok?’ …and I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol), but when I eventually made it to the 8th hole, I discovered that I was watching Stuart Appleby’s group. I had heard of him, so I decided to follow them around. I had no idea what I was in for.

So after Appleby took his tee shot, Olin Browne stepped up and took his. Then, out of nowhere, came this clown in pink tuxedo pants, a visor with perfectly-gelled hair sticking out of the top, and a black polo shirt with a surprisingly unpopped collar. He pulled out his orange “big dog” and proceeded to crush the ball down the fairway. I gotta know who this guy is.

I look at my list of groups for the day and I see that this guy is named Eric Axley. And this is not the first time he’s dressed like this.

I don’t really follow golf (if Tiger’s not playing, I’m probably not watching), but apparently he’s pretty good; he tied for 9th at the US Open last weekend. That certainly does not excuse the behavior I saw from him over the ensuing couple of holes.

 

Highlights of Axley’s tournament:

 

8th hole: Getting pissed after missing a put and throwing his putter not once, but twice. Then, after finally making it, throwing the ball at 82 miles per hour towards his bag, leaving it for his caddie to pick up.

 

10th hole: Axley instructing his caddie to tell the spectators 200 feet away to stop moving so that he can concentrate on making his two-foot put (he made it…good thing there was no movement).

 

11th hole: Axley missing another putt and leaning over in disbelief, refusing to move for about 45 seconds while Appleby is trying to line up his putt.

 

13th hole: Axley stopping in the middle of the backswing of his chip shot out of the rough, turning to the crowd and yelling, “Come on guys! We’re trying to play golf here!” His caddie then points out a few adolescents in the crowd an tells them to leave.  Axley proceeds to hit the chip shot over the hole and down a hill on the opposite side of the green. Of course as he’s walking he turns around and shakes his head at the spot where the “disturbance” happened.

 

Appleby and Browne, on the other hand, were consummate proffesionals, joking with the kids in the crowd. Appleby’s caddie politely asked some spectators to relocate when a drive went into the gallery.

By the way, Appleby finished the day with a 66, Browne with a 69. Axley, despite his theatrics, finished with a robust 76, failing to make the cut….by a lot.

I tried to talk to Axley afterwards, but unfortunately he couldn’t hear me over his pants.

ABC Forgets The Big Three

the big three somehow turned into the big ticket

 

First off, congratulations to the Celtics. You don’t know how hard it is for me to say that, being a Lakers fan, but after a night to let the fumes die down I realize that Boston was the better team and how much they deserve their 17th NBA Championship. I have a bone to pick, however, with the post-game coverage by ABC.

I DVR’d the game because my class didn’t get out until 9:45 p.m. (thanks Professor Sumby), and when I got to halftime, the Lakers were down 58-35. Since I’m not a masochist, I decided to FF through the third quarter and I would stop if and when the Lakers made their comeback.

Instead I saw Boston’s score going up faster than the National Debt while the Lakers score moved slower than an eight-year-old’s clock on Christmas Eve.

By the time I caught up to live action, the Celtics were up by 30 and the championship was well in hand. After Doc Rivers was showered in Gatorade (not sure if that’s appropriate at a basketball game, but we’ll get into that later), it was time for one of my favorite portions of any Championship coverage, the post game on-court celebration.

I couldn’t wait to see a dramatic three-way interview with the “Boston Three Party,” watching them interact and laugh and cry with each other under the final realization that they had achieved their life long dreams.

Instead I saw Kevin Garnett. By himself. With his hat pulled over his eyes. Crying and ranting and raving like a madman.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Kevin Garnett. I wanted to BE Kevin Garnett for a better portion of my adolescence. Of course everyone knows how passionate he is and how much he “changed the culture in Boston”, but he DID NOT WIN IT BY HIMSELF! Garnett was just as passionate in Minnesota, but it wasn’t until he was playing alongside two future Hall of Famers that he won a title.

Imagine how Paul Pierce was feeling when he was glossed over in favor of the Big Ticket for the postgame interview. Pierce has stuck with the Celtics for 10 seasons, most of them miserable. Often considered a selfish player with no heart, he took his game to the next level in the playoffs by averaging nearly 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists while guarding Joe Johnson, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as well as they’ve ever been guarded. He dominated the Finals and took home MVP honors, finally cementing himself as one of the greatest players in Celtics history.

And who do they interview? Someone who has been a Celtic for less than a year.

That’s like if you’d been working on a project for a month, tweaking it and finally perfecting it. Then you hand it to your friend to turn in for you and he gets the promotion.

We finally got to hear from Pierce in the Finals MVP presentation. Oh, and a post-celebration interview with the sterlingly eloquent Stephen A. Smith after everyone outside of Boston had gone to sleep or moved onto whatever they had TiVo’d while watching the game.

The interview should have been with all three of them. If there was a space issue or word from the top that there could only be one of them, it should have been Pierce. The Finals was his coming out party.

Kevin Garnett, just like Adam Sandler in Big Daddy, they wasted the good surprise on you.

Morgan Goes Mental

Don\'t know if the Emmy is coming this year, Joe

 

I’ve always defended Joe Morgan when people (including sites like firejoemorgan.com) told me he was a bad commentator. Yes, he is a little self-indulgent, like when he said, “He’s the best second baseman I’ve seen since…well…me.” But I think he knows the game and I enjoy hearing his stories about the old days…………most of the time.

Here is a full conversation that Joe started with Jon Miller, his long-time partner (in the midst of the absurdity I was somehow smart enough to hit the record button on my DVR, and boy was it worth it) during the eighth inning of the Cubs-Dodgers game Sunday night. Please enjoy Joe Morgan, redefining the word “trivia”:

 

Joe: Jon, I gotta ask you a trivia question. I was fishing with Matt Franco, who used to play for the Mets, and Ken Jowdy, I was fishing with ’em on a boat. And Matt Franco asked me this trivia question. He said he had talked to players past and present, and he said, and he asked me who, which guy, hit the hardest line drives most consistently of all the players I had ever seen.

 

Jon: Hard?

 

Joe: Hardest line drives.

 

Jon: And that’s a trivia question?

 

Joe: Well it was for me and him. We were playing trivia on the fishing boat.

 

Jon: Where would I look up the answer to that?

 

Joe: Well, you should know the answer!

 

Jon: So, give me the question one more time. [this was Miller’s big mistake. should have just pretended not to hear him]

 

Joe: Alright, who hits the hardest line drives of any player you ever saw on a consistent basis?

 

Jon: Dave Winfield.

 

Joe: Alright, keep going. That’s one. See you– that’s A. A wasn’t right.

 

Jon: (Laughing in disbelief) Yes it was right! I beg to differ!

 

Joe: Alright, I’m gonna give you a hint. You even broadcast games for him. [nice hint…Jon Miller has been broadcasting baseball games for over 25 years!]

 

Jon: I broadcast Dave Winfield’s games.

 

Joe: No, that’s not– for the answer I’m talking about. I’m telling you what–he asked all the other players, I’m not saying…

 

Jon: Well I’m saying that this is a question for which there’s no correct answer!

[shot of Morgan and Miller in the booth…Miller laughing and Morgan looking like he’s starting to get upset]

Joe: Yeah, there’s a correct answer.

 

Jon: Well what did you say? What was your answer? Did you get it right?

 

Joe: Yes. [5 seconds of silence while Miller looks apologetically into the camera] Al Oliver.

 

Jon: Oh, Al Oliver? He was…

 

Joe: See.

 

Jon: He was a very good hitter.

 

Joe: I knew you would say that…see I knew that you’d eventually come up with the answer. [Jon Miller never actually did come up with the answer…Joe told him the “answer.”]

 

 

So that was what I got to watch after I saw the Lakers play like my summer league team for 3 quarters. At least Joe Morgan’s nonsense provided 5 minutes of humor before the Dodgers lost too.

Bad day for L.A. Great day for the credibility of sports broadcasters.

Game, Set, and Tantrum

   

tennis leads to more outbursts than trips to the dentist

 

I’ve fallen back in love with tennis.

The most exciting sporting event of this weekend was the French Open Final. No, i’m not talking about Rafa Nadal lambasting Roger Federer for a fourth straight year at Roland Garros (the clay surface is now officially Federer’s Kryptonite. It magically strips him of all of his superhuman powers the second he sets foot on it).

What I’m talking about was the WOMEN’S final played on Saturday between Ana Ivanovic and Dinara Safina. Ivanovic won the match 6-4, 6-3, earning the number one spot in the rankings in the process.

I know what you’re thinking: YES, Ivanovic is super hot.  NO, that’s not why I enjoyed the match. Well, not the whole reason.

I started watching the match live on Saturday morning in glimpses (flipping to it during 90210 commercials), but I soon found myself much more interested in Ivanovic and Safina’s battle than the on-again-off-again romance between Donna and David.

More intriguing than the match was the behavior of Safina (sister of men’s player Marat Safin). Apparently Marat is known for his, let’s just say, demonstrative behavior on the tennis court and his sister was no different.

Highlights of the match:

 

– Safina shouting a 38-word Russian expletive at the top of her lungs following a point (I’m not even sure if she was angry or happy, but it was awesome)

– Safina rolling her eyes and steaming with anger when a baby began to cry during her serve (the baby was escorted out of the stadium before Safina actually served. I’m serious.) P.S.- Isn’t it ridiculous how everyone has to be quiet before they serve in tennis? Could you imagine Randy Johnson refusing to deliver the first pitch in a visiting stadium until there was complete silence?

– As Ivanovic was pointing to the ball mark on the clay to contest a call, Safina walking over and defiantly wiping away the mark with her racket while shaking her head in disgust.

 

I was literally laughing out loud for about five minutes after each of those moments. Also, Safina’s behavior led commentator John McEnroe to allude to this infamous video (one of the all-time greats):

 

 

So I’m officially on the tennis bandwagon now (and what a spacious wagon it is). I’m going to try to keep track of the rankings and watch some of the minor tournaments just with the hope of seeing some ridiculous behavior. Like this kid, who is eerily reminiscent of my brother during his tennis-playing days.

 

Wait…Who’s Pitching Tonight?

Maine vs. Cain, Brito vs. Zito, pitching is so confusing!

 

Yesterday while watching the bottom line on ESPN, something amusing and slightly confusing caught my attention. The starting pitcher matchup for last night’s Mets-Giants game was: NYM (Maine) vs. SF (Cain). Naturally both starters factored in the decision, with the Mets righty picking up the win and the Giants righty taking the loss in the first annual Maine-Cain matchup.

I got to thinking about other possible confusing pitching matchups in the Major Leagues, and there were a lot more than I thought. A LOT more. Let’s start with the most confusing matchups, two pitchers facing each other with the same last name (all pitchers listed have logged at least one inning this season).

 

Bos (C. Bucholz) vs. Col (T. Bucholz)

Tor (A. Burnett) vs. Pit (S. Burnett)

Was (C. Cordero) vs. Cin (F. Cordero)

Sea (F. Hernandez) vs. Min (L. Hernandez)

ChC (R. Hill) vs. Was (S. Hill)

Bal (J. Johnson) vs. Ari (R. Johnson)

Det (A. Lopez) vs. Bos (J. Lopez)

Sea (M. Lowe) vs. LAD (D. Lowe)

Fla (A. Miller) or Fla (J. Miller) vs. TB (T. Miller)

Was (Od. Perez) vs. NYM (Ol. Perez)

NYY (E. Ramirez) vs. KC (R. Ramirez)

TB (Al Reyes) vs. StL (An. Reyes) vs. Min (D. Reyes) vs. Atl (J. Reyes)

NYY (M. Rivera) vs. Was (S. Rivera)

LAA (F. Rodriguez) vs. Hou (W. Rodriguez)

NYM (D. Sanchez) vs. SF (J. Sanchez)

LAA (E. Santana) vs. NYM (J. Santana)

TB (J. Shields) vs. LAA (S. Shields)

Oak (G. Smith) vs. NYM (J. Smith)

LAA (J. Speier) vs. Col (R. Speier) 

Bal (J. Walker) vs. SF (T. Walker)

SF (B. Wilson) vs. Tex (C. Wilson)

Tex (J. Wright) vs. Hou (W. Wright)

 

Ok, those were boring but I was just blown away by how many active Major League pitchers share a common surname. These confusing matchups should be a little more fun:

 

SD (Banks) vs. CWS (Danks) or CWS (Jenks)

Sea (Batista) vs. Det (Bautista)

SD (Bell) vs. Col (Wells)

Bos (Beckett) vs. Atl (Bennet)

TB (Birkins) vs. Atl (Jurrjens)

Hou (Borkowski) vs. Cle (Borowski)

NYM (Brito) vs. SF (Zito)

Cle (Byrd) vs. Hou (Byrdak)

Atl (Carlyle) vs. Cin (Belisle)

Oak (Casilla) vs. Tex (Padilla)

Pit (Chacon) vs. Tor (Chacin)

SF (Cain) vs. Min (Crain)

Oak (Foulke) vs. SF (Chulk)

Col (Francis) vs. Tex (Francisco)

Tex (German) vs. SD (Germano)

Det (Grilli) vs. ChC (Lilly)

Phi (Hamels) vs. TB (Hammel)

SD (Hampson) vs. Atl (Hampton)

Bos (Hansen) vs. Tor (Janssen)

Oak (Harden) vs. Ari (Haren)

ChC (Howry) vs. SF (Lowry)

Phi (Kendrick) vs. TB (Hendrickson)

Hou (King) vs. Atl (Ring)

LAA (Lackey) vs. Cle (Laffey)

Phi (Lidge) vs. Tor (Litsch)

Tex (Loe) vs. LAD (Lowe)

Sea (Lowe) vs. StL (Lohse)

Col (Newman) vs. TB (Niemann)

Fla (Nolasco) vs. ChC (Carrasco)

Atl (Ohman) vs. TB (Dohmann)

Fla (Olsen) vs. Bal (Olson)

Ari (Petit) vs. NYY (Pettite)

Tor (Ryan) vs. TB (Ryu)

Cle (Sowers) vs. Col (Towers)

NYY (Wang) vs. Cin (Harang)

SD (Wolf) vs. Tor (Wolfe)

SD (Yabu) vs. KC (Yabuta)

and just for fun…  Oak (Street) vs. Sea (Rhodes)

 

Well hopefully this list has alerted you so you won’t be too confused the next time one of these matchups pops up on the bottom line. I tried to find one for my name, but I had trouble finding a name that rhymes with Ward-Henninger. Go figure.

 

 

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