… a beautiful thing to watch. Old-school isn’t flashy. Old-school is making your teammates better. Old-school is being soft-spoken. Old-school is deflecting the credit. Old-school is rare. Old-school is going about your business and staying out of the headlines. Old-school is rising to the occasion. Old-school is using the backboard. Old-school is 4 titles gunning for 5. Old-school is The Big Fundamental. Old school is #21. Old-school is Tim Duncan.
No sooner did the Lakers fall to the Thunder in 5 games, it seemed as though a camera and microphone were in the face of the key members of the losing team in an instant wanting commentary on their playoff dismissal and answers to future team plans not later, but now. They had just been whipped by a younger, faster, more athletic team and barely had time to wipe the sweat off their brow before Craig Sager is asking pointed questions about “where they go from here”. Obviously the networks pay guys like Sager and Jim Gray to ask the tough questions in tough spots. But I’ve got to give credit to those Lakers who were interviwed instantly after the loss by Sager and others for not lashing out or even clocking a reporter who’s all over them about what their team needs to do next year when they haven’t even completely digested their exit yet. Both Kobe and Kupchack denied the “window has closed” darts being thrown their way in rather short sound bites. Metta World Peace gave credit to the victors. And Immature Andrew was at least humble while also sharing that he “doesn’t care” where he plays next. That said, I was impressed that they all kept their composure while being drilled about their playoff ouster in immediate fashion by reporters preying for a scoop.
Spring has sprung (although there really wasn’t a winter). The NHL Playoffs are barely a week old. And fisticuffs are back in a rather large way. Mayhem is usually left to the Allstate guy these days. But Old-Time Hockey has raised it’s ugly, or perhaps to some, beautiful head and is a reminder that no title comes easy when Lord Stanley’s Cup is at stake. Flyers vs Pens you knew would turn foul. But when stars like Crosby and Giroux go at it, it’s worth taking note. Ya think that the Kings vs Canucks game 4 will be a feisty one? Especially with an #8 seed looking to sweep a #1 seed. Hey, Vancity – let it get rough on the ice, not on the streets, OK? Last week I posted that the road to hockey’s championship is more often than not the survival of the fittest. This season, may the fist-ist survive.
Otherwise known as the NHL Playoffs are about to commence. Will we have a rematch of the ’94 Finals with the Canucks vs the Rangers? Will the first round matchup between the Penguins and Flyers be a classic, a dud or a bloodbath? Will a 7 or 8 seed pull a first round upset which have become commonplace in recent years? Will the champs – the Bruins – dig in and defend? I’ve always felt the road to the championship in hockey is the toughest in all of professional sports. While some would argue that a hot goaltender can take you a long way, I believe the ones hoisting the Cup come June are the teams with simply the most healthy bodies left at the end. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are as fantastic as they are brutal. But more often than not, they are a war of attrition.
Peyton Manning is now a member of the Denver Broncos. Although it will most certainly be weird seeing him wearing an Orange jersey, what won’t be weird is seeing him in command of an offensive unit again like just about no one else in NFL history. Some would argue that despite winning one Super Bowl, his playoff resume isn’t too stellar. I would argue that half the teams in the league (if not more) should have been lining up for his services the day the Colts released him. He’s a top 5 QB of all-time. He’s a leader and winner in every sense of the word. He’s the most prepared player I’ve ever seen. And he’s a class-act (as is his brother – nice job, Archie). No matter what the Broncos offensive personnel is, he instantly makes everyone on that side of the ball better. His decision-making, quick release and accuracy are simply light years ahead of the guy he replaced, who’s now a NY Jet. Imagine how happy John Elway must be that he doesn’t have to answer Tim Tebow questions anymore. In the realm of things, Manning really doesn’t get hit or sacked all that much. If he says he’s ready to play, I believe him and I’m not going to worry about his neck. Get him under center. Watch the wins come. I say 10 of them. Minimum.
In sports, we’ve lately seen teams get hot late in the season and run the table like baseball’s Cardinals and football’s Giants. On the flip side, we’ve also seen 1st and 2nd seeds bounced in the first round regularly in a sport like hockey. But for the most part, basketball is different. Come playoff time, you pretty much know who will be the NBA’s Final Four. Many would argue they know before the season even starts. Even today, with half a season left (albeit an abbreviated one), you can pencil in MIA vs CHI in the East and OKC vs someone in the West. Check that. You can pen them in. I believe basketball truly has the best athletes in the world. And moreso than in other sports, the cream rises to the top almost every time. Sure, last season the Spurs were dominant but exited early. There never is a sure thing (that’s the beauty of sports). This season, we’ll see if the Knicks can get it together or if the Celtics can hold it together for one last run with an aging Big 3. But can you really see either of them getting by the Heat or the Bulls? Not in the No Fluke NBA.
No one knew that Greg Oden would play only 82 games in 5 years for the Portland Trailblazers after being drafted #1 overall 2007. No one knew that Jamarcus Russell would be a lost cause so quickly for the Oakland Raiders either. By the same token, no one knew Tom Brady was destined for the Hall of Fame or that a raw talent who barely even played football named Jason Pierre-Paul would become a force for the New York Giants. In sports, the guessing game is played out often. It makes one GM the hero, another one unemployed. And there’s really no science to it. Could Kevin Durant have been the injury prone one? Sure. But that’s not the case and he’s become the NBA’s smoothest scorer on a true title-contender. I feel bad for Greg Oden and the Trailblazers in general. It’s kind of the Sam Bowie mess all over again for them. I don’t believe that the personnel men for the Sonics and the Blazers in ’07 were all that different in terms of level of intelligence. But with Oden’s career likely now over, it sure seems that way today.