As far as we’re concern, it doesn’t get much sweeter than the Girls of Tennis.
As they hit the courts to battle it out at the 2011 US Open in Flushing Meadows, NY, we figured we’d bring to your attention some of the talent you should be checking out over the next couple weeks. Enjoy Epic Sun Readers!
Like many entries, this begins with what I discuss with friends; and it’s a conversation we all have. As we know, we certainly make better decisions than the general manager of our respective teams. They don’t know what they are doing, and the right move is just too obvious. Little is more universal among fans than the unappreciated expertise to run a franchise worth hundreds of millions of dollars that I think it’s necessary to devote a blog entry – nay, a blog series – to this tradition of the sports fan. So, here we have it: the first of a multi-part series titled (for now) Three Right Moves, where we’ll look at three decisions that a specific team should make. And given that two people actually commented on the NBA Lockout blog entry (thank you, gentlemen) this one will be on an NBA team, even though we probably won’t have a season next year. So our first team is … the Miami Heat.
(I know, you thought I was going to say the Celtics)
Let’s put aside all the ridiculous fanfare that occurred prior to the NBA season. Criticize it all you want, but it was the best thing for the NBA. Whether hating or loving a team, the league benefits from fans caring about how a team performs, and we all wanted the Heat to perform poorly.
The Heat had a great season by most standards. They made it to the NBA finals and were a couple plays here and there from sweeping the Mavs, but their season was championship or bust. Plus, we forget that the Heat just annihilated the field in the first three rounds. But there are some moves that the Heat should make.
(There is a huge sidebar here that is too important to be put to the side: this could all change with a new CBA. But I’m going to assume that the cap will be harder, but current contracts will be kept intact. Again, this could all change, but the needs and general moves would be the same.)
Move #1: Cut down LeBron’s minutes.
LeBron clearly froze in the finals, and I blame most of that on the mental game. LeBron has always been the man, he only lost two games in his entire high school career, and his senior year of high school had games aired on ESPN. He isn’t cutthroat, and he doesn’t handle pressure well. But some of his lousy final’s performance should be attributed to him playing so many minutes. He played the most minutes in the playoffs of any player (43.9/game) and sixth most during the regular season (38.8). You got to cut those minutes back. Even LeBron, who is unbelievably fit and never seems to be injured, needs to be sat for a few more minutes per game. I’m guessing he felt his legs — go just a little, lost his confidence – just a little – because he didn’t have that last gear to dig into, and it spiraled down from there.
Move #2: Get a three point shooter.
Now, I watched the Celtics – Heat series. Angrily. Because the Heat, specifically LeBron, took some of the worst shots but just couldn’t miss. You’d go into a possession and feel like the Celtics played it well, like they forced the Heat to take shots under pressure or from bad points on the court. They just couldn’t miss.
But that hot streak left them in the finals. The Heat really need someone who they can run set plays for to get an open three point shot. I think they wanted Mike Miller to be that guy. If he stays healthy, maybe he could be that guy. But the Heat would be OK to invest in a shooting specialist. LeBron and Wade are incredible perimeter defenders, so they’d be safe having someone who may be a bit of a defensive liability. They need a perimeter scorer
Move #3: Shake up the line-up.
I think my first two moves were pretty obvious and not that radical. But the biggest change the Heat need to make is in their line-up. Immediately after the finals, the biggest skill criticism of LeBron was his lack of a post game. He needed to be able to slide into the role of a 4 more often. But really, they have to go the other way: move LeBron to the point guard position.
Hear me out; I have five reasons:
While LeBron is one of the league’s elite scorers, he is on one of the few teams that he doesn’t need to be the scorer. He ranked 2nd in the NBA (26.7 ppg) and Wade ranked 4th (25.5 ppg). And they score the same way, both take guys on and drive to the basket. If you redefine Lebron’s role, Wade can really dominate as that slasher on the court.
LeBron is an elite passer, why not make that his job. He’s averaged 7 apg over his career and most of that was with a terrible supporting cast. As a point guard, he would be capable of handing out double digit dimes a game.
The point guard position isn’t just about passing. Point guards are responsible for driving to score or kick it out to an open player. Completely fits his skill set.
He’d be a mismatch against any other point guard. At 6’9, he would be able to dominate any other point guard and take him to the basekt, which would completely disrupt an opponent’s defense.
Both LeBron and Wade could be the man. Right now, they are competing for that title. That’s mostly because they play the same position and do the same things well. As the table setter, Lebron could run the offense and be a premier point guard, especially compared to the other 1’s in the league. Wade could be the scorer and do what he does best. Bosh could come along for the ride, score 20 a game.
So you’re lineup would have LeBron playing the point, get that knock down shooter as the 2 guard, Wade playing as a hybrid 2-3 scorer and driving to the basket, Bosh will score twenty a game as your 4 and Haslem would play the defense first center. I think, essentially, you’d be trading a stat line of 27-7-7 for 20-7-11; you’d give both LeBron and Wade the chance to be alpha-dogs at their positions; and the team would become a more cohesive unit, with more defined roles. Plus, in crunch time, LeBron already likes to pass the ball. Wade is the killer on that team, and there shouldn’t be a question as to who is the scorer in the last 12 seconds of a game. There wouldn’t be nearly as many questions on their offense, which is probably why they would always run down the shot clock every night. As a Boston fan, I’m hoping they try to make it work where LeBron and Wade play the same position and they go with the point guard combination of Chalmers and Bibby. But the ceiling on shifting LeBron to the 1 is scary, and hopefully it won’t happen.
In How I Met Your Mother, Ted is arguing with Lilly about whether he should pursue Robin. (I know, I’m on the first season, still). Lilly says that it’s a mistake, and Ted responds, saying that sometimes you need to make a mistake, even when you know it’s a mistake. And isn’t this true? You know that guy is just going to break your heart, but you go out with him anyway; you know that you shouldn’t have the second plate of wings, but they’re just so tasty; and you know that you shouldn’t sign a player whose production during the last year of a contract is far superior than his career averages, but we have to look like we’re doing something to make our team better.
That last clause can’t be right. I mean, in a relationship you’re guided by desire, heart and libido. While eating wings, you’re guided by your taste buds, which will let you down any chance they get. But a professional sports team? Worth millions and millions of dollars? They wouldn’t be so foolish as to be duped into signing someone based on one year of production and ignore a long career and statistical sample size. Yet, that’s exactly what so many of them do. The player who is setting up the opportunity for himself this year: Jose Reyes.
Reyes has had an excellent career: a plus hitter and great base stealing speed but an average (at best) defender at the short stop position. I’m not saying that he shouldn’t get a good contract. But he should get one that’s based on his career production, not based on one year of eight with the hope that he keeps up that intensity and production. I’m scared of players who play that much better when a contract is on the line. It shows their motivation, and I don’t want to give a long contract to someone who seems to be most motivated when their next pay day is on the line.
Despite this, he’ll be paid over a hundred million dollars and given six years. Teams are too afraid to lose fans because of apparent inaction; they panic and force their own hand, and then they hand out crippling contracts. The Red Sox did it two years ago with Lackey and this year with Crawford. The big problem is that there will consistently be teams that, like the Red Sox, will overpay for players and set the market high – it’s bad for baseball, and this is coming from a Red Sox fan. Continue Reading »
In the NBA lockout, both the players and the league are acting as stubborn as a pair of Zax. Both sides need to compromise on some issues so we can have a season next year, so I don’t really side with either of them. But the NBA just realized a leverage point that wasn’t available in the last lockout ten years ago. Deron Williams deciding to play for a Turkish team could be a huge move for the players.
If I was Billy Hunter, I would have every superstar sign a similar contract to the one Deron Williams signed, where there is an out clause if the lockout is lifted. Williams is making $200,000 a month. This is a huge pay cut, but the owners are hoping that they can hold out long enough so the players feel like they need their salaries. Even though it’s a pay cut, it’s still an incredible salary.
The Union needs to sell it to the players. Really drum up a good PR campaign; it would be pretty easy to market NBA players to European leagues. It would help to globalize the sport and give players a chance to live somewhere else for a while, to create some memories. Every all star should sign overseas, to different teams and leagues, and make a point of being unified in it.
However, all contracts should be like Williams’s, where players would have an out clause if the NBA ended the lockout. Those teams would certainly sign players like Dwyane Wade or Russell Westbrook to a contract like that; the money the teams would make for the couple of months they had their superstar would justify the possibility of losing him mid-season. The NBA is a star driven league. If those stars were succeeding in another league, the NBA would panic and start making concessions.
If the teams really are losing as much money as they claim, they need to put the league back together as soon as possible. The product was incredible this year, and the league still suffered. I don’t claim to understand all of the issues that are blocking another season, but massive reform needs to occur if we just had the best season and post season since the Jordan era, and teams still lost money.
You can follow Chris Covey on Twitter at @BostonC_Covey
Come on, NFL. You had me so hopeful. You were in court, the players union disbanded, the lockout was illegal, then it wasn’t. I was sure that so many greedy owners and super competitive egos wouldn’t let me down by compromising. But here it is. The lawyers are still deliberating over some word choices, and while I’m hoping for some last minute crazy, like Roger Goodell slipping in six extra London games or forgetting to add anything to account for the growth of the league, it looks like a compromise will be reached and the NFL will likely play every game this season.
That’s right; I support the NFL lockout!
If you’re still reading, read me out. I didn’t come to this opinion lightly. In fact, I have been an NFL guy for a while. It’s a great sport to follow. Emotional and physical. Teamwork and individual feats of excellence. Gambling. While I love the Red Sox, the game of baseball is pretty boring. I’m not going to watch an Orioles-Blue Jays game, and I live in Baltimore. But with football, I’d watch any game. And with fantasy football, there is a genuine rooting interest, in most of them. Even if I didn’t, it’s an incredible game to watch.
But shortly after the Super Bowl, I decided to boycott the NFL. Bold move. I know. However, it wasn’t one without cause or thought. There were three major reasons for this life-changing decision.
1: There is a blatant disregard for the players’ well being.
I know, I know. They are playing out of choice. Players know the harm done to their bodies. While football players are not modern day slaves – like some Minnesota running backs would like people to believe – they are modern day gladiators. Yes, while they are in their prime, they are celebrated. But only a small number of NFL players have long careers, and an even smaller number reach that superstar status. But those superstars represent the entire NFL to us. The average career length in the NFL is 3 years. Continue Reading »
Aight, so you’re a sports fan. You follow your team passionately, and have been doing so since you can remember. You know all the players, you watch every game, you watch SportsCenter for all the latest updates, you check up on the team website, and not as much as an assistant coach change slips by without your notice. Your team of choice is a big part of your life, and as a sports fan you’re usually surrounded by other sports fans who understand exactly what you’re going through and sympathize with the highs and lows that fanhood brings to your life, and you’re perfectly happy as long as the game is in season (and your team wins).
Then it happens. You get a girlfriend (I say “girlfriend” because this is mostly a male problem, but it’s not unheard of for the roles to be reversed…if you were smart, you would have gotten one that likes, or at least tolerates, sports…) and she wants to immediately be promoted over your team to absolute priority status, believing that any other course of action means that you love a bunch of colorful outfits and a ball more than her, and that’s just absurd. You don’t love them more, just differently…but she has no ear for it, demanding team time be sacrificed in favor of household chores, boring errands or…”talking about us”. To the vexation of many a man, she will interrupt gametime for meaningless nonsense…after all, “it’s just a game”.
It’s not her fault, she doesn’t understand why it’s important. All she sees is that when she wants your attention, it’s on the game. Sure, you could increase her understanding by walking up to her next time she’s fixated on some Lifetime movie or reality bitch promenade, smacking all the bonbons out of her hand, snatching the remote, lightly tossing it over your shoulder and asking for a blowjob…after all, “it’s just a movie”. It’s rude and uncalled for, but it’s a direct parallel. They don’t understand that either…but what everyone understands (or better understand) are legally binding documents. In that spirit, I bring you just that…here it is: the Prevent Defense. Just have her read and sign this…or just sign it…and you’re bulletproof…(or if not, you can sue the bitch!):
I, ________(girlfriend), of sound mind and sound body, am in a relationship with my boyfriend, _________(boyfriend). I understand and recognize that he was a fan of _______(sport), and ________ (name of team) long before he was a fan of me. I also understand that the love he has for (name of team) and the love he has for me are two totally different things, and that jealousy over the situation does no good. Therefore, I do hereby pledge that I will not make requests of (boyfriend) during Gametime (defined as a period beginning 15 minutes before and ending 15 minutes after the conclusion of any regular season game) that do not require “Immediate Attention”.
1b) “Immediate Attention”:
“Immediate Attention” is a period of up to 10 seconds (or until the play is over). Events that require “Immediate Attention” are those that present a clear and present danger to the lives or safety of those it affects. Examples of such events include house fires, children in danger, and intruders of any kind. Examples of such events do not include house work, children in mommy’s room, or door-to-door solictiors of any kind. Sexual activity may be considered to require immediate attention at the discretion of (boyfriend).
While (boyfriend) should be open to and patient about teaching me about the game he’s watching, it is my responsibility to make a decision before Gametime on whether I wish to observe with him or not. If I decline, I realize that is not my pass to sit around and ask “why (boyfriend) even watches this stuff” or “how this game is so stupid.” I also realize that if the game is so stupid and watching it is inexplicable, then watching it purely to make negative comments, waste time, and annoy the holy hell out of (boyfriend) in the process is inexplicably stupid. If I do not want to watch the game, I pledge to find something else to do.
Talking during the game about non-game related subjects is both distracting and ineffective, since (boyfriend) is probably not listening to me anyway. However, should it become necessary, it should be kept to a minimum of both length and emotional content. I realize that his attention is on the game for the next 4 hours or so, and any deep conversations will likely be forgotten, or worse, interrupted by a response to game events. This is part of (boyfriend’s) personality, and I hereby pledge to get the fuck over it.
I, (girlfriend), while not obligated to do anything special when (name of team) loses, also pledge not to make it worse by saying things like “it wouldn’t have happened if you had paid attention to me” or “that’s what you get for spending all afternoon watching a stupid game and cursing at the TV”. I realize that this behavior may result in the cursing that was hurled at the TV being redirected. I also realize I deserve it because I was an incendiary little dogwife.
4) Special Events
While I now understand that (name of team) are important to (boyfriend), I also see in a way he can’t from the inside that a few major events per year may be more important than the game. As a result, I am allotted 1 (one) pass per 16 games to drag (boyfriend) to something during gametime. I understand that him even missing watching the game of his own volition is a sacrifice, and I will not prevent him from checking the score on his smartphone or a nearby TV.
5) Playoffs/Championship Games
I, (girlfriend), realize the playoffs are even more important than regular games, as they represent the path to the entire reason anybody watches any sport. I also understand that (name of team) making the playoffs is a special occurence that does not happen every year. As a result, I promise to treat them, and his scheduling of events around them, with the appropriate respect with regards to this agreement. Also, the Special Event pass is suspended unless (boyfriend) agrees to waive this clause.
6) Team Choice
If I, (girlfriend), do somehow end up liking the game or sport, I understand that it is expected that I root for the same team as (boyfriend). Failure to do so, and especially the choice of a rival team, may have unpredictable but uniformally undesirable effects, all of which I accept as a condition of becoming a sports fan.
In return for my complete compliance with all terms and conditions presented in this document, (boyfriend) must perform any and all reponsibilities outside of Gametime understood to be a part of our relationship to the best of his ability. In addition, I may request 1 (one) special favor per game day, subject to approval by (boyfriend) to be performed outside the hours of Gametime. Also, I deserve really great birthday and anniversary gifts.
Minor breaches of contract will be handled surprisingly fast so (boyfriend) can get back to watching the game. Any severe breach of this contract may include penalties up to and including termination and monetary compensation rivaling a celebrity divorce settlement. By signing this contract, I indicate that I accept and agree to all terms therein. This contract takes effect immediately at or retroactive to the start of the active sports season (name of team) participates in.
In full disclosure, this take on the Wimbledon final was option 3. My first angle was going to be watching Wimbledon at Butt’s and Betty’s, the bar around the corner, where their peak hours are from 6:00AM to 11:00AM on weekend mornings. Option 2: I was going to give a running diary of the final; but this didn’t pan out, either. The reason that you will have to wait, at least, a year to read either of these accounts is because I was out until 5:00AM the night before and spent the night on a college buddy’s couch. But I did catch the entire final, and I thought I would recap some of the highlights. (This will be written like a live diary, but times may be fudged slightly or maybe given in an inaccurate order, but it will make for a better narrative. Consider it like David Simon’s version of breakfast at Wimbledon. If David Simon hadn’t slept the night before).
4:30 AM: I receive an email from Emily (the live-in girlfriend). This is odd, because she is in Italy, six hours ahead of me and is sure that I’m asleep. I think she was surprised to get the immediate return email:
I perused the Boston Red Sox website intending to listen to the game on MLB Audio; but a video, in the upper right hand corner, distracted me. The Red Sox, due to a petition started by a 7th grader from Nashua, NH, have made an “It Gets Better” video to support the young LGBT. In fact, these videos are made for all youth who feel on the outside and that they will always be bullied. It’s a fantastic video campaign, and many actors and athletes are using their voice to promote the cause.
But there were a couple of unique parts of this specific video that stuck out to me:
1: The Sox are part of a league mired in the past and tradition.
It’s impossible to figure out which sport will be the first to have an openly gay athlete, but I’m pretty sure the last will be Major League Baseball. The sport is more opposed to forward progress than the Tea Party. It’s surprising for a team to take an active stance on a social issue that is controversial; at least controversial to those who feel tradition supersedes progress. Despite the athletes avoiding rhetoric of sexuality, they are still actively supporting an organization that stemmed from the LGBT community and is primarily associated with youth who are bullied because of their sexuality. Continue Reading »