Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Reluctant Blogger

I can't deny it any more. It looks like I officially just sold out. You see, ever since the whole "blogging" craze began, I've always convinced myself that I would never succumb to the growing pressures of publishing my thoughts in a so-called "Weblog." I was even able to convince myself that bottomlineguys.com was just a running discussion between several people which just happened to be published on a the internet, but now that the forum for that discussion has been transferred to a site called bloggers.com, I really don't have that luxury any more. I have to finally face the facts. I am typing out my thoughts on various subjects to be published on the world wide web for anyone with internet access to look at, if they so chose.

So, while I know that, by the very nature of a "blog", very few people will actually choose to read anything someone with my limited credibility has to say, I am submitting to the peer pressure, and posting on this here blogspot. I can only hope that some of my controversial or incendiary remarks will be read somewhere and provoke thought...like "this is the last time I ever read a blog."
Enjoy.

Here's a few random thoughts to kick things off.

  • I must start by applauding Dan Clarin for a remarkable effort to start off the new site. He was dead-on, particularly with the section on "hipsters". All those anti-society hipsters sitting in coffee shops with their laptops commiserating about the state of the world and the environment and what not may really be the ones that have given blogs a bad name. The whole "me against the world" thing might have worked for 2Pac, but often times he had angry men with guns coming after him. The biggest danger that hipsters face is some "frat boy" making fun of them for wearing ugly thrift-store clothing.

  • Dwyane Wade. Remember him? Seemed like he got lost in the shuffle as the Heat took care of the Nets a little too quickly in round 2, while Lebron, Steve Nash, and Dirk took center stage for a little while. Well, Dwyane's back, and it looks like he is making his case to be considered for the role of best player in the NBA. While that is up for debate, I think it's clear that he at the very least belongs in that argument.

  • Phoenix. I visited this desert metropolis over the Memorial Day Weekend, and came away with several impressions.
    First of all, Phoenix has two big things going for it. The weather and the girls. Both are pretty ridiculous. Clouds are scarce, and tans are plentiful. For the most part, both the weather and the females of Phoenix are extremely hot. Not having to own a jacket, or ever see girls of this caliber wearing jackets might just be enough to carry a city by itself.
    That being said, there are several drawbacks to the area, in my humble opinion. The city planning is horrendous, as public transportation is virtually non-existent (not that I expect much from people who started a city in the middle of a desert.) Natives of Arizona comrpise about 10% of the population, as most people will admit they just moved there for the weather. There is little to no grass to speak of. Vegetation consists strictly of cacti and the occassional palm tree. I didn't see as much crazy wildlife as I had hoped. There was not a scorpion, rattlesnake or vulture to be seen. Just a few lizards and a miniature snake. Aside from the Mexican fare, the food leaves a lot to be desired. Even when you are drunk, it is hard to eat an Arizona-style roast beef sandwich or the food product they claimed was pizza. The weather is the same every day, you know exactly what you are getting: sunny, hot and dry. While this seems great at times, I have to imagine that it can get kind of old after a while. I mean, who among us does not enjoy the occasional thunderstorm? By the end of the trip, I actually found myself missing humidity and clouds just a little bit.
    All that said, it was a rather enjoyable trip, and a solid showing by the city of Phoenix and the surrounding area. Would I go back to visit? Definitely. Would I want to live there? Probably not, but you might want to ask again next January.

  • Barry Bonds! It's funny, I hated Barry a lot more before everyone in the world jumped on the anti-Barry bandwagon. Maybe he's not the greatest person in the world, but there have certainly been much worse. Maybe he was on the juice, but he's not the first, and he won't be the last. He's still a 7-time MVP, 9-time Gold Glover, and arguably the greatest 5-tool player of all-time. (If you check his career stats, it's very hard to argue otherwise, even before 1999.) It's too bad that might not be what he is remembered for when all is said and done.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Brief Anger

Most days I venture down to the Starbucks Coffee located in the building next to mine at around 9 am. Although I was a blue collar, Dunkin Donuts coffee drinking, Starbucks hater at one point, Starbucks has grown on me. There is something about their coffee that gives me a lift Dunkin Donuts just can't match. Those who know me would not be surprised to learn that I usually can't just order coffee...there needs to be some type of food involved as well. The Starbucks Apple Fritter fills this role quite well. For the unintiated, it is a cinnamon roll-type deal, glazed and filled with little bits of apple. In other words, it's right in my wheelhouse. However, despite the obvious demand for this item (some days it is sold out quite early), the Bucks just can't seem to keep it in stock. Hence, many mornings when I walk down expecting to return to my office with a cup of coffee and a doughy slice of heaven, Starbucks disappoints me greatly. This incites brief anger, although I am usually over it by the time I start thinking about what I am going to eat for lunch. I am a pretty positive person, but there are certain things like this that can cause a brief period of anger. In honor of the Starbucks employees who fail to understand the concept of supply and demand, here is a list of things that never fail to anger me, even if ever so briefly:
  • the person(s) on the morning train who feel the need to spread out and take up valuable space with their newspaper or magazine, apparently unaware of the fact that there are humans packed like sardines in the train car around them.
  • people that walk very slowly in groups of 3 and 4 side-by-side on city sidewalks, totally oblivious of those around them.
  • the Chipotle that has people lined up almost out the door, yet refuses to utilize the "two cash registers" concept....Pablo, no matter how fast and carelessly you throw ingredients into my burrito, I am still going to get backed up at the register, so do us all a favor, and chill out with the corn salsa spoon.
  • any fast food or drink restaurant employee that becomes angry when I attempt to use a coupon. Ma'am, I ensure you my coupon will not be coming out of your paycheck, and although I know it is a huge hassle to lift up that little tray in the cash register to put my coupon underneath, please, if i wanted "coffee with a scowl", I would order that.
  • 95% of sports talk radio callers...this is the main reason I don't listen to it anymore. Joey from the South Side can't seem to fathom why another NBA team wouldn't want to trade their superstar for all of the Bulls' useless bench players. Honestly, if you ever want to feel like you are in the top 5% of intelligent humans, just listen to sports talk radio for about an hour.
  • hipsters, aka hippies without a cause. You know who you are, giving me that condescending look as I get on the subway after work. Vietnam is over. President Bush doesn't care what you think. The "establishment" isn't out to get you. Not everyone that wears a backwards baseball cap and a polo is a "frat boy clone." Your art sucks. Take off the dark-rimmed glasses, wash your hair, get some jeans that fit, and quit being a drain on decent society.
  • the Moneyball vs. old school baseball debate. Here is the truth: a lot of scouts are full of shit and numbers can't explain everything. Baseball is a complex game and the no one has all the answers. Appreciate the value of both sides, and move on.
Maybe next time I will do a list of things that make me smile, like food, which I am about to eat.

While we wait for new posts, here is what was on the front page of bottomlineguys.com most recently.....


KOBE-YASHI!

posted 11:45 am on 5/2/05 by Chris Kenna

First off, let me start by giving Kobe some of the credit he deserves for finally deciding to attempt to play team basketball. Alongside Lamar Odom (who has the ability and skill set to be a very good "second-fiddle" type of player), if Kobe can learn to play this style of basketball year-round (and maybe even get better at it) and work his role players into the system a little better, I think we are looking at a legitimate championship contender in the next 2-3 years, especially in a Western Conference where the balance of power seems it is starting to shift away from San Antonio.

That being said, while I agree that if Kobe and Shaq had stayed together, they would probably be contending for championships every year, I don't think simply replacing Dwyane Wade with Kobe Bryant would do much of anything for Shaq and this Miami Heat team as assembled. Sure, Kobe (the flawless 44% shooter that he is) is a better outside shooter than Dwyane and one could argue he is a slightly more experienced defender, but, if anything, it would be a relatively minor upgrade in the grand scheme of things. Shaq would still be showing the noticeable decline in dominance we have seen throughout the first four games of this series, and you would still have Antoine Walker and Jason Williams playing little to no D, while hoisting up trey's with little to no conscience or accuracy to speak of. I know Dwyane hasn't played up to his potential thus far in this series, but let's also not forget that last year around this time, he was a bruised rib away from carrying a less-talented (but better balanced) Miami Heat team on his back into the NBA Finals. He typically scores with remarkable efficiency, has an uncanny ability to get teammates involved (he is already a better passer and playmaker than Kobe), and has been the only one on this Heat team really playing any semblance of defense over the past 2 games. This Bulls team runs a lot of complicated sets and has been doing their best to get out on the floor and force guys like Antoine, J-Will and Shaq to try to keep up with them and play team defense; something which, to this point, they have proven incapable of. To put any of the blame on Dwyane for the Heat's porous defense in this series would be misguided. I can almost assure you Kobe's impact on the defensive end would be no greater, and I guarantee you that Shaq isn't losing sleep at night wishing that Dwyane would turn into Kobe. Although he might be losing sleep wishing that Antoine Walker would turn into anyone else...

Now, as a Lakers fan, I could certainly see your disappointment in the breakup of what could have and, for all intents and purposes, should have been a dynasty, but as an NBA fan, I think the Kobe-Shaq split was in the best interest of the league. That Lakers saga, as I can imagine many outsiders felt about the Bulls dynasty by 1998, was getting to be a tired story by the end of the 2004 Finals. They hadn't won a championship in 2 years, and were just thoroughly dominated by a rising Detroit team. Shaq was getting tired of Kobe's antics, and Kobe was tired of deferring to Shaq. Let's face it, the NBA from the time of Jordan's retirement to the time Lebron was drafted was probably one of the most boring periods in league history. The Lakers of Shaq and Kobe were really all we had, and that was starting to get old. Now there was a young influx of talent coming into the league, and you just got the feeling that the NBA needed a fresh start. So Shaq was shipped to Miami to work with another young star, Kobe finally got his chance to prove himself on his own, and the league finally seems to be on the verge of being able to fully transition from the end of the Jordan era into what appears to be a very bright future.

One thing's for sure. I know his Laker teammates are just dying waiting and wondering when Kobe will bust this old move out for its playoff debut...

NON-KOBE PLAYOFF AND DRAFT THOUGHTS

- Would anyone else love to see a matchup between this Pistons team and one of the Bad Boys championship teams. I'd put my money on the Bad Boys. I'd especially love to see Rodman going up against Rasheed.

- How could you not love this Chicago Bulls team? Oh yeah, maybe if you have to play against them. But seriously, this team is like a younger, more athletic version of the Pistons.

- Tell me the Phoenix Suns don't miss Amare. Tell me that Steve Nash is still the MVP. That team is nothing without Amare.

- Lebron James is a ridiculous athlete. He has more talent than any player in the NBA. He is one of those rare players who is not the "next" anything, but will make people remember his name on its own merits. It's clear he's still got a lot to learn about the game though...but don't worry, he's only 21.

- Gilbert Arenas, insane. Gilbert Arenas, probably one of my favorite NBA players/personalities of all-time.

- What is up with all the flagrant fouls in the playoffs thus far? The worst, by far, had to be Reggie Evans grabbing Chris Kaman's balls while going after a rebound. I mean, come on, that might be worse than the Ron Artest brawl. I'm calling for a full-season suspension for Reggie Evans.

- Joakim Noah just made the worst decision of his life. It wouldn't shock me if he wasn't a lottery pick next year.

- All this talk of Rudy Gay being a bust is just silly. He is the one player people will definitely remember from the 2006 NBA Draft.

Batman Is Missing Robin

posted 3:18 pm on 5/1/06 by Jeff Tinker

When the trade was made, I thought there was no chance that Shaq would ever miss Kobe. After all, Shaq was Batman, Superman, and the Incredible Hulk all rolled into one. Kobe was great, but he wasn't Superman. He always appeared to be the ultimate sidekick for the world's most awesome athletic force, but he wasn't the main attraction. In Kobe's first season as the Lakers first option, my beliefs were confirmed. Shaq helped the Miami Heat reach the Eastern Conference Finals, while Kobe could not even get the Lakers to the playoffs. Shaq had moved on and would not have to look back. Or so I thought.

Shaquille O'Neal has played in 175 NBA playoff games, and I have watched most of them. Yesterday was the first time I have ever looked at Shaq and thought, "Wow. He needs some help." Unfortunately for Shaq, the kind of help he needs right now will not come from Dwyane Wade, or any of the other members of his current team. At this point in his career, the kind of help he needs can only be given by one man. Ironically, it is the very man he has worked so hard to distance himself from in the past two years. Yesterday, for the first time since the dynamic duo separated, Shaq must have been thinking: "Boy, I sure miss Kobe."

It is ironic that on the same day that Shaq's old side kick made a game-winning shot to help Shaq's old team take a commanding 3-1 series lead, Shaq's new partner missed twice from point blank range in a crucial situation, and allowed his team to fall into a 2-2 tie. Dwyane Wade is terrific. Please don't get me wrong. Wade can really play. But Wade is nowhere near the player that Kobe Bryant is. Both players can attack the rim, but Wade does not play with the same defensive intensity as Kobe, and Wade's jump shot does not have near the accuracy of Bryant's. If the Heat could replace Wade with Bryant, there is no way that Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich would have the same freedom to drive to the rim. And Shaq always had a lot more room to operate on offense when Kobe and his flawless jump shot were there to stretch the defense for him.

Everyone in Los Angeles will say that egos ended things for Shaq and Kobe. It is terribly interesting to me that everyone thought their egos would be a huge problem as Shaq hit the declining years of his career. If they were still together, I have a feeling that Shaq would not have as much of a problem letting Kobe take more shots. Shaq's injuries have begun to pile up and the wear and tear of carrying 340 pounds through 14 NBA seasons is catching up with him. Obviously, Shaq can still be very effective. But right now, he needs Kobe. And you know what? Kobe needs Shaq too.

During their time in Los Angeles, Kobe and Shaq just barely scratched the surface of how good they could have been. The league's premier shooting guard (and one of its youngest!) dominating alongside the league's premier inside presence, and they only had 5 seasons under the watchful eye of Phil Jackson. They should have had 5 more. Since then, Kobe has matured by leaps and bounds. At age 26, he is far more mature than he was at age 24. He is beginning to understand the concept of team basketball, and at a time when he has become one of the game's best passers (That's right! I said it! He is one of the game's best passers! Just look at how adept he is at setting up Luke Walton and Kwame Brown.) he no longer has Shaq to receive the ball. I probably sound like a broken record by now , but I will say it again . Isn't it ironic?

Who knows what will happen as the 2006 NBA playoffs progress? The Lakers will likely defeat the Phoenix Suns, and they will move through the playoffs, as Kobe slices and dices either the Clippers or Nuggets in the second round. And then, the Lakers will meet the Spurs in the Conference Finals. Kobe will be missing Shaq badly during that series. The Lakers are better than advertised, but they cannot beat a team like San Antonio. In a similar way, Miami will progress through the playoffs until their shortcomings lead to their downfall as well. They may be defeated by the Bulls, or they may survive until Detroit systematically dismantles them. All the while, Miami will suffer from a lack of perimeter defense and perimeter shooting. And on the other side of the country, Kobe will watch his current big men be dismantled by Tim Duncan and wonder why his team lacks the inside scoring that is needed to advance to the NBA's biggest stage.

Neither man would ever admit it. But they must ask themselves once in awhile. Why did they ruin such a great thing? Everytime Shaq watches Wade miss a 20-foot jumper or get beaten off the dribble, he must secretly realize that Kobe would not have made the same mistake. And everytime Kobe watches Kwame Brown fail to finish a shot around the basket, he must wonder how many seconds it would have taken for the basket to stop shaking if Shaq was the one that he was feeding in the low post.

I am not sure if they realize it now, but someday they will. Shaq and Kobe ruined a great thing. San Antonio and Detroit are two great basketball teams. But with another year of maturity, a more youthful cast of sidekicks, and the Zen Master's hand to guide them, Shaq and Kobe would have returned to NBA glory.

Two men who could not wait to get rid of one another, now need each other more than they ever did before. It's pretty ironic. And as a fan, I think it's pretty sad too.

Foolproof MVP Vote

posted 1:35 pm on 4/28/06 by Dan Clarin

Caught in the midst of one of the more upsetting sports issues in 2005, Mr. Kenna and myself decided to show just how not valuable Steve Nash was when compared to several other great players. In order to do this, we placed every player in the NBA into a hypothetical draft pool and picked 30 new teams consisting of 5 starters and a bench player. Needless to say, Steve Nash wasn't the first pick. I think he may have even slid into the second round due to our anger at the time. With the 2006 regular season now over, we decided to hold our draft once again. Surprisingly, Steve Nash wasn't the first pick this time either. Click on the link to see the 2nd installment of what could become a great American tradition. I drafted as if these teams would remain intact for one or two years, so you can use that assumption when viewing.

2nd Annual NBA Redraft

(Note: Shaq slid further than he should have. Jeff, we apologize. However, he is getting older.)