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Ramblings 06/07/2010

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I snapped this picture of Ryno coaching 3rd base Sunday in Des Moines.A Monday morning mish-mash….

I spent a BEAUTIFUL Sunday afternoon watching AAA baseball in Des Moines, home of the Iowa Cubs and their current head coach Ryne Sandberg. I grew up a Cub fan, and visited Wrigley Field in most summers growing up. I have seen many Cub greats play in the Friendly Confines. Santo, Banks, Reuschel, Suter, Monday, Jenkins, Beckert, Grace, Maddox. The list goes on and on. I then watched the Cubs when they visited Coors Field when I lived in Colorado for the 90’s and most of the 00’s. I guess I have seen most every Cub great play in person for the past 40+ seasons. To me, the greatest Cub of all during that time was Sandberg. His Hall of Fame Career in Chicago has cemented him as one of the best 2nd baseman to ever play the game. During his career, he combined tremendous range and skill defensively with power at the plate. A rare combination at 2nd at the time. He was a 10 time all-star, won 9 gold gloves and 7 silver slugger awards. He was the NL MVP in 1994 and was elected to the HOF in 2005. In addition, he is still the last 2nd baseman to lead his league in home runs when he topped the NL in ’90 with 40 round trippers. I have been out to the ball yard a few times this season and I must admit it is still a thrill to see old #23 in Cubbie blue. My hope is to see him manage in Wrigley in the future……..

The Flyers allowed 7 pucks into their net in game 5 (photo Jim McIsaac-Getty images)

The Flyers are in trouble. They dropped game 5 to the Blackhawks in Chicago to go down 2-3 in the series. Sure, the home team has won all 5 games so far, but in the 3 games played in the Madhouse on Madison, Philly has had no answer for the energy the Hawks draw from the largest, and perhaps loudest crowd in the NHL. That place gets ROCKING during the National Anthem and the Flyers find themselves down before they gain their legs. Even if they can extend the series by winning a game 6 in the City of Brotherly Love, game 7 will be back in the Windy City. The Hawks WILL win the Cup!………

What a gutsy performance by the Celtics in game 2 of the NBA Finals. After failing to show up in game 1 against the Lakers and getting waxed in LA, Boston

The Celtics rose above the Lakers Sunday, capturing game 2 and sending the series to Boston tied at a game each (photo: Ronald Martinez-Getty Images)

came out and took a big lead early in game 2. To their credit, the Lakers refused to roll over, and took a lead in the 4th quarter. Boston then closed out a 16-4 run over the last 5+ minutes to take game 2, and home court advantage, away from LA. As the series now shifts to Boston, make no mistake about it, this will be a long series. If Beantown wants to prevail over Hollywood, they can not afford to take another game off as they did in game 1……

Finally, as I flipped back and forth between the NHL and NBA games on Sunday, I was reminded of an old addage. While the seconds of the last 2 minutes of the basketball game melted slowly away, the final few minutes of the hockey game flew by. It took twice as long to play the final 2 of the Celtics-Lakers than to play the final 5 of the Flyers-Blackhawks, reminding me that if you only have 2 minutes left to live, you want it to be the last 2 minutes of an NBA game.

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Pretender 05/12/2010

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James was overshadowed by the Celtics all game long (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Fifteen points! Game 5 of a best of seven playoff series tied at 2 games each, at HOME, and the best he can do is score 15 points!?! With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, Fans in Cleveland are singing “where have you gone, LeBron James, ….” King James? He looked more like Harry Houdini last night. We couldn’t find him because he kept disappearing. The Witness Protection Service wishes they could hide people as well as James hid last night. Remind me again why they keep giving this guy the MVP trophy.

Can we now stop the comparisons with Michael Jordan? The only thing Jordan and James have in common is an ego as big as all they come. The difference between them is that MJ had a heart to match that ego. And the stones to fight. James needs to man up and grow his grapes, and build some heart. Perhaps a trip with Dorothy to visit the Wizzard is in order. FIFTEEN POINTS??? In his 179 playoff games, Jordan NEVER scored so few points.

James is no MJ

Last night was the 4th time James was held to 15 or less in his 70 playoff games. Jordanesque? Hardly. MJ grabbed 6 rings while with the Bulls, including his first one in his seventh season. This is LBJ’s seventh season. If the Cavs drop game 6 in Boston, James may have played his last home game in Cleveland. Rumor has it that James will land in New York or Chicago next season. The way he plays during the playoffs, perhaps he should consider the Harlem Globetrotters. There he can showcase his ego and antics and not have to worry about outcomes. He can throw the chalk in the air and pose for imaginary cameras, play the Clown Prince and not worry about the game. The outcome is pre-ordained.

To be sure, Nike will continue to pay him his millions. The NBA will continue to fawn over him. After all, he is the King! He represents all that the NBA has become. A mere shell of itself. A joke compared to what it was when MJ and Bird and Majic were the persona of the League. But come playoff time, the Clown Prince will continue to step aside for true basketball royalty. Just like he did again last night. The King is dead. Long live the Clown Prince!!

Monday Musings 06/01/2009

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Some random thoughts on a Monday.

LeBron James and Cleveland will be sitting it out again in the NBA Finals

LeBron James and Cleveland will be sitting it out again in the NBA Finals

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavs lost game 6 to the Magic in Orlando.  LeBron walked off the court at the end without a congratulatory handshake to any one from Orlando, not even his Olympic team mate, Dwight Howard.  Perhaps he was hurting.  That’s the excuse every one gives.  But when asked about it the next day, James prattled on about how he is a winner.  I guess that means that when others shake hands after their loss, they are losers.  Lets not forget that it’s all about LeBron.  Winner?  Just what exactly has James ever won besides a High School Championship?Hell, Al Bundy has more class than James has shown.  Winner?   James again has shown that he has no class.  Ever heard of Sportsmanship, LeBron?  I’m beginning to question if you will ever be a winner.

One good thing about the Magic win.  Perhaps we are now done with those annoying LeBron Kobe puppet ads.

In Baseball, the fans vote for the starting lineup for the all star game.  They are dangerously turning this vote into a joke.  Dodger outfielder Manny Ramirez is in the midst of a 50 game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.  (He did NOT test positive for steroids, so please quit reporting that he did, talking heads at ESPN!)  Currently he sits 4th in NL outfield votes.  Top 3 start.  How can you vote for someone that is suspended for drug violations.  Barring rain outs, Ramirez should return to the Dodgers July 2 or 3, just before the all star break.  The Commissioners office has said that if he is voted in, he would be ineligible.  Guess they forgot to read the agreement in place with the players association that says the commissioner can not disqualify  player otherwise eligible for the game based on a positive test. This could get ugly.  I hope it will not come down to this.  Come on, fans.  Don’t vote this guy in.

One final thought.  Since the US taxpayers now own large chunks of GM and Chrysler, two of the biggest employers in the city of Detroit, can we now get the Red Wings to dump those ugly, Soviet Union inspired uniforms?   PLEASE!!!

Ugliest uniform in professional sports?

Ugliest uniform in professional sports?

The Jester 05/27/2009

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LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers is a great basketball player.  He is known as the King.  It is a moniker that he enjoys.  But it is also one he has not earned.  As the MVP of the NBA this season, there is no doubt that he is the

The king is always center stage, complete with props

The king is always center stage, complete with props

 current Crown Prince of basketball.  But there are still lessons that must be learned for this man who would be king.

The Cavs had the best record in the NBA this season.  As such, they had home court advantage for the duration of their playoff run.  Had is the key word.  They trail the Orlando Magic 3-1 in the best of seven Eastern Conference finals.  Were it not for a miraculous last second 3 pointer in game 2 by James, the series would be over.  In reality, it is over now anyway.  In the NBA, only 4% of the teams that have been down 3-1 in a series have come back to win the series.  The Magic have beaten the Cavs 5 of the 7 times they have met this season, so it is difficult to see how the Cavs can be only the 9th team to win a series out of the now 191 to have fallen behind 3-1 in a series.  Some call James the best ever.  Others say he is the best in the game today.  But he has yet to win a ring.  Kobe has 3 so far.  Larry and Magic had several each.  Michael had 6.  James needs to win before he can be mentioned along with these greats.

Life can be a harsh teacher.  Remember the last few weeks of the season, when the Cavs were full of themselves?  Mugging for the camera?   The pregame skits? 

The Cavs yuk it up before a game late in the season.

The Cavs yuk it up before a game late in the season.

 The mock home run trots, the mock picture sessions recording the great Cavs?  The boasts of a championship in the bag?  Those were heady times for the James gang.  I have no doubt that the good feelings ran high.  But the memories of those few weeks of good times have faded all too soon.  It is easy to celebrate a championship in April.  But that celebratory feeling has melted away before June.  To make a memory that will last a lifetime, you must wait and celebrate after you have actually won something.  A championship can last a lifetime.  But it must be earned with hard work and effort.  I have no doubt that James will accomplish that at some point in his career.  But it will not be this year.  This year life had a cruel lesson to teach.  I wonder if James has learned it.

It is hard to be a King when you act like a Court Jester.

Answer Found 04/24/2009

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In the NBA, it’s all about star power.  But, as the Denver Nuggets are now learning, it is also about who the star is.

In the 2006-07 season, the Nuggets were coming off of their 3rd straight first round playoff exit.  Mega star Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin needed help to get to the next level.  The answer?  The Answer.   On December 19, 2006,

Allen Iverson was not the answer in Denver

Allen Iverson was not the answer in Denver

 the Nuggets traded for a point guard, 11 year veteran, 31 year old Allen “The Answer” Iverson.  In 2001, Iverson was the NBA  scoring champion, league MVP and led the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals where they lost to the Lakers.  Surely Iverson had the experience and chops to complement Anthony and lead these Nuggets.  While Melo and AI scored lots of points, the Nuggets fell in the first round of the playoffs.  Same thing in 2007-08 season.  Lots of points but a first round failure in the playoffs.  Something had to change.

Entering the 2008-09 season the pressure was on Nuggets coach George Karl.  Perhaps he was the problem.  While leadership was the problem, was it on or off the court?  On November 3, 2008, The Nuggets traded Iverson to Detroit for point guard, 12 year veteran, 33 year old Chauncey

Denver native Billups was traded to the Nuggets for AI

Denver native Billups was traded to the Nuggets for Iverson

Billips.  In 2004, Billups was The Finals MVP as his Detroit Pistons defeated the Lakers.  Detroit again made The Finals in 2005, where they lost to the Spurs.  The Nuggets have flourished under Billups leadership.  They finished the season with 54 wins, matching the franchise record for wins in a season.  They secured the number two seed in the NBA Western Conference and lead 2 games to none in their first round playoff series against the Hornets.  It is the first time the Nuggets has won the first two games in a playoff series since 1985.  Billips has become the leader of this Nuggets team.  And his play has led the way in the first two games.  “Mr. Big Shot” has scored 67 points, is 12 of 15 from 3 point range and is perfect from the free throw line.  Even better, he has 12 assists in the first two games with NO turnovers.  While 2 wins does not guarantee a series win, it looks like the Nuggets will be headed into round two, and with Billups leadership, who knows how far this team can go.

Since Billups, a Denver native, has returned to the Mile High City, word out of Nuggets headquarters is that he has changed the culture of the franchise.  Billups has made this franchise his.  Iverson never did.  And THAT may be the answer.

Billups has been the Nuggets leader in the first two playoff games against the Hornets

Billups has been the Nuggets leader in the first two playoff games against the Hornets