Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

If It Weren’t for His Enablers, DeMarcus Cousins Would Be His Own Worst Enemy

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

The center position in the NBA has morphed into an entirely different animal. Gone are the days when two dinosaurs would slug it out on the block. Today’s best big guys still play with their backs to the basket (some) but need to be able to step out, stretch a defense, set screens (pick & roll is the new style of basketball – pretty much at every level of the game) and either roll or, and this is a skill fans never got to see Wilt, Russell, Kareem or Walton do, pop out for a jump shot. Sometimes a three-pointer. That strategy is so prevalent some teams are eschewing the traditional center and playing with a combination of two guards and three forwards or three guards and two forwards. And since those offensive skills are necessary, it’s also mandatory for “centers” to be able to defend that type of player.

The guy who best fills out the above description is the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins. He has the strength of the best pivot men of the 20th century, the low post game of Hall of Famers, yet can play away from the basket, shoot from beyond the three-point line, put the ball on the floor – and has the ability to guard inside and out as well.

That’s the reason there are constantly rumors of a trade. An all-star center whose team is struggling is going to peak interest in other clubs who dream about what a player like that could do for their franchise. Yet there hasn’t been a trade. General Manager Vlade Divac, who was one of the hybrid centers back in his playing days for has been quoted on numerous occasions, most recently yesterday, saying, “We’re not trading DeMarcus. We hope he’s here for a long time. We are going in that direction.”

Without dancing around the subject, the real reason no trade has gone down is because the seven-year NBA veteran Cousins is basically a 26-year-old superstar with the talent to lead a ball club to a championship, maybe multiple championships, but one who possesses the maturity of an eight-year-old. In 51 games, Cousins is averaging 27.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists. If the Kings could receive anything resembling fair market value for their big guy/problem child, they’d be throwing a “re-branding” party before the ink on the deal was dry.

At the 2015 Hall of Fame induction show John Calipari was the final person recognized. He had every one of his former players in attendance and asked all of them to join him onstage. With scores of players behind him, he asked them, as he looked out over the audience, “Raise your hand if you think I held your game back?”

I happened to be at the show (my former Washington State and USC boss, George Raveling was also in the HOF class) but can’t remember how many former Calipari players had their hands up. It was because Cousins was making a spectacle of himself, smiling and frantically waving his. At that moment, Cal dropped the punchline. “I don’t know how many hands are up but I can guarantee you DeMarcus Cousins is raising both of his.” It made for a good laugh for everyone but spoke volumes about what is must have been like to coach an 18-year-old DeMarcus. Had the one-and-done rule not been in effect, Cal would have started petition for one.

Last night against the Bulls, the Kings were down by as many as 27 but came back and made the game a nail-biter. Down two, with about 12 seconds left, Sacramento ran a side out of bounds play in which the ball was to be inbounded to Cousins. Replays showed that Dwyane Wade did, in fact, grab Cousins’ jersey as he stepped in front of him, stole the pass, dribbled down and dunked to secure the victory. With seven seconds left, the Kings’ big man shot a three-pointer, attempting to draw a foul. The shot went awry, no foul was called, the Bulls controlled the ball and the Kings fouled. 1.1 seconds remained.

Cousins was so upset about the no call on the side out play that he turned and displayed so much disdain toward the referee, no one in the building, including DeMarcus himself, was shocked another tech, his second of the game, meaning automatic ejection. What does that matter, you say – there was only 1.1 seconds left and the game was essentially over anyway.

Because it was also his 16th technical foul of the season. Forget the fine – he makes 17 mil a year. According to NBA rules, that magic number means his irresponsible behavior he’ll be suspended for Wednesday night’s game against Boston. At least season ticket holders will get to see Isaiah Thomas play.

While the Kings’ announcers were critical of Cousins’ behavior, “It’s the inability of him to control his temper” and, after viewing the replay, “you can’t do this” in reference his reaction toward the official with one tick left. In between those admonishments, most likely because they know who signs their paychecks, was the phrase, “He thought there should have been a foul, that Dwyane Wade held his jersey and I agree, DeMarcus is 100% correct, but …” DeMarcus needs more of what follows the “but” and less of how “right” he is.

When Cousins was asked about his techs? “It’s kind of unfortunate that it happened. I really don’t know what to say about it. If I say something I’ll get punished, and if I don’t say something I’ll get punished. I really don’t know what the answer is anymore. I’m highly disappointed in what just happened.”

It’s highly doubtful anyone who knows him is surprised at his response. He’s a guy who’s been enabled for so long, he believes he’s … right. All the time.

He’d possibly considered an all-time great if he’d take to heart some great advice that, apparently, no one as of yet has told him:

“Grow up.”

 

The Best Story of the Wildest Super Bowl

Monday, February 6th, 2017

The coverage of every Super Bowl is exhaustive. This year’s was no different.

First was Deflategate – which, I believe, would have been a two week story had Brady admitted to telling his guy to let some air out & it just happened he took out a little too much. If you’ll remember (and it takes quite a memory now), no quarterback, past or current, thought it was a big deal – that every QB likes the ball at a certain pressure. If Brady said it was miscommunication or … whatever, he probably would have gotten a slap on the wrist – maybe a little more because it was Brady & the Patriots – but definitely less than a four game suspension.

A couple other story lines outside the game itself were Brady’s mother fighting cancer, having gone through chemo, yet showing up at the game and former President George H.W. Bush being wheeled on the field also after recently being released from the hospital.

Game stories including 25-year-old James White, a fourth round pick from Wisconsin, rushing 6 times for 29 yards, catching a SB record 14 passes for 110 yards and accounting for 20 points on two rushing TDs, one TD reception and a two-point conversion – stats good enough for MVP honors, except for Tom Brady having the game, er, second half + OT of every QB’s dream. Or the fact this was the first ever Super Bowl decided in overtime. Or that New England ran more than twice the number of plays Atlanta did (93-46). Or the second guessing of Atlanta’s play calling in the fourth quarter.

How about the debate regarding who the greatest QB ever is among Brady, Terry Bradshaw or Joe Montana or the one about who the greatest coach ever is among Belichick, Vince Lombardi, Chuck Noll or Bill Walsh? Even taking into account the emotion of the moment, it seems as though each debate is now put to rest.

Many will claim the Pates coming back from a 25-point deficit tops all stories and, for the football purist, it certainly was but, for my weird mind, Deion Sanders stole the show with his pregame anecdote discussing the distractions surrounding the players involved in the Super Bowl.

It’s the last game – for everything. Win, and the season was the ultimate success. Lose, and no matter how many preseason goals were set – and accomplished – nothing seems to matter, at least at the time. Asked to talk about the distractions a player has to deal with, Prime Time talked about what has been discussed so many times – tickets. He related his first time participating in a Super Bowl.

First he brought up his siblings which he told the national audience numbered in double figures. Then he talked about others and running around, scrounging up as many tickets as he needed, only then could he get back to his team and prepare for the biggest game of his career. Following the game, the first of two SB victories for him, Neon asked his family members about a couple of exciting plays in which he was involved. They all hesitated before answering.

He said, “Wait a minute. Were y’all even at the game?”

When he told of their response, it was almost as if he understood. They said to him, “Man, they were offering $3000 a ticket! We took the money and watched the game in a hotel room.”

“After all that work I put into getting them, my relatives scalped their tickets!”

 

What Can Be Done About the Snubbing of Russell Westbrook?

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

People are incensed that Russell Westbrook is not starting in the upcoming NBA All-Star Game. I mean, the guy is, and has been, averaging a double-double for the season. How can that not translate into a starting spot? Are there really two better guards than Russ? Well, the guys voted ahead of him are James Harden and Steph Curry. Selecting only two of them forces people to trash one of the three when attempting to passionately defend their choice.

Could Obama have pardoned it? If it’s too late, can Trump step in? He needs to ingratiate himself to NBA players and this would be a nice start. But does this oversight really need a presidential decree?

The main reason, really the only reason, Westbrook isn’t a starter is that players were separated into two categories – guards and big guys. The starting five is composed of two guards and three bigs. Long ago, a basketball team was made up of two guards, two forwards and a center. It became more specialized when the position designations changed into a point guard (1), shooting guard (2), small forward (3), power forward (4) and center (5). Although coaches are considered copycats, there is always an innovator who changes things up and revolutionizes an aspect of the game – if his teams win.

What followed were the designations: a point, two wings and two posts. Then, Don Nelson, an innovator if there ever was one, blew everybody’s mind when he created the “point forward.” Bringing thoughts of Nellie back, a couple nights ago, Kenny Smith argued with Charles Barkley when Chuck said James Harden was a point guard. The Jet claimed that Harden was not a traditional point, but a “point two.” Or did he mean .2, introducing decimals as a hoops position? Or “point to” as in a player who gives direction?

The point, er, aim of this post is that the game has gone through so many “position changes” that, to avoid embarrassing issues such as not starting a guy who is one of the two leading candidates for MVP, why not have the top five vote getters (however the votes are weighted – fan, media, player) be the starters?

After all, why is it necessary to have designated groups for the voting when 1) it’s not mandatory the all-star coaches make certain there are two guards and three bigs on the floor the entire game and 2)

“The NBA All-Star Game is a joke anyway.”

Who Says Traveling Isn’t Called in the NBA?

Friday, January 20th, 2017

As many folks were, especially those of us on the west coast, I was watching the Warriors-Thunder game a couple nights ago. The NBA, as I’ve stated on numerous occasions, is composed of the best athletes in the world. In order to play in the league, everyone must be able to run, jump, dribble, pass, catch, rebound, defend and shoot. With people that skilled, it’s arguably the most difficult sport to officiate.

There was an incident during the game in which the ball was inbounded to Russell Westbrook and, facing no pressure from any defender, he turned and brought the ball up the floor. Only he forgot to dribble. The rule regarding traveling is that the player who receives the pass is allowed to take one step and, then, can lift his other foot but must either pass, shoot or dribble before that foot touches the floor (that explanation probably butchers the actual rule but you get the idea).

After Westbrook caught the ball and turned upcourt, he didn’t begin his dribble until his sixth step. It should have been an easy call if, for no other reason, than traveling is also referred to as “walking.” Anyone who’s seen the video – which has to have been viewed over a million times – can see that walking is exactly what the Thunder point guard was doing.

What’s funny is his action brought basketball full circle. When kids begin playing (4, 5, 6 years old), most of them, when they get the ball, start running around. During camp sessions it’s impossible to call every traveling violation, so usually, “referees” (mostly coaches and older players) won’t call it – or else nothing would ever get accomplished.

The thought that crossed my mind, after seeing the replays of it over and over was:

“Exactly how many steps was that NBA referee going to allow Westbrook to make before blowing his whistle?”

Apparently, the answer was six.

Has Davante Adams Died and Gone to Heaven?

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Anyone who watched yesterday’s wild card game between the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants saw how vital a part Davante Adams is to the Pack’s offense. Adams accounted for nearly 1000 receiving yards during the regular season (997) and had a huge effort in yesterday’s playoff game – 8 receptions for 125 yards (15.6 average) and a touchdown, his longest reception going for 31 yards. Since he was drafted by Green Bay three years ago, Adams has gained the trust of Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay’s masterful quarterback who, along with New England’s Tom Brady, is a favorite for this season’s MVP award.

Adams played his college football at Fresno State. His last season was 2013. The Bulldogs’ quarterback was Derek Carr who was in the middle of exhibiting all the skills that would translate into him being exactly the type of NFL signal caller he’s become with the Oakland Raiders. During a prospect’s recruitment, in nearly all cases, what resonates best is something that strikes a personal chord with him. The assistant coach responsible for Adams’ area made one of those outrageous statements that recruits often hear. Hyperbole works in recruiting, especially if the prospect believes the message.

The line Adams heard while being recruited by Fresno State was not only hyperbole; some people considered it blasphemous. He was told, “If you come to Fresno State, you’ll have Jesus throwing you the ball.”

“Wonder how Davante feels now?”

Darrelle Revis Has Moved to Fantasy Island

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

At one time “one of the best cornerbacks to ever play this game” was Darrelle Revis. Although that quote was from Revis, many people, even football experts, would concur. In fact, there was a plot of land named after him. Before Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson were the most feared CBs, there was Revis Island. Receivers dreaded seeing him across from them but most of them needn’t have worried since wise QBs weren’t going to target them anyway.

Well, one opponent that no corner (or player of any sport) could beat in a one-on-one match up came along and exposed Darrelle. Father Time. The cocky Jets’ cover corner found he was getting torched by receivers who weren’t even in the same class as those he used to shut down. In addition video from this season went viral of him giving an embarrassing – no, make that no – effort on a tackle. For fans who have yet to see it and wonder exactly how bad it could actually have been, let me refer to a line used by an old football coaching colleague of mine. “If you strapped an egg to the front of his helmet, it wouldn’t break” when a ball carrier came his way.

So be it. No one can say Darrelle Revis wasn’t a superstar in his day. In professional sports, when “your day” is over, someone else takes your place or “picks up the flag” or, as the saying goes, it’s “next man up.” Revis doesn’t exactly agree. He admits he’s not the player he once was. However, he feels as though he still should be paid like it. As he told the New York Post, “Do the New York Jets want to treat my situation with class or no class? With me being one of the best players in the history of this franchise, do they want me to retire here or not retire here? That’s the biggest question. It’s black and white. It’s not very complicated.” On that last thought, he’s exactly right. It’s not very complicated.

Revis claims he understands that football is a business. The concept Revis doesn’t seem to understand is when a player’s skills deteriorate, so does his leverage. And that’s where the “business” part comes in. If the Jets release him in the offseason, they save a lot of money – to the tune of freeing up $9 million in cap space. According to the Post, “as it stands now, he is set to count $15.33 million against the cap in 2017.” Yet, when speaking of how his contract should be handled, Revis becomes nostalgic, professing contract negotiations should be about loyalty.

There’s talk of him being moved to safety but at a reduced salary. The negotiations will probably come down to one difference. The contract he’ll be offered will be agreeable to both him and the Jets – in the eight figure range. The one difference?

“The Jets will want two of the figures to come after the decimal point.”

It’s the Fans’ Favorite Time of the Year

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

College football is down to its championship game, the NFL’s playoff season is beginning and college basketball and the NBA are deep enough into their respective seasons that drama is front and center (Grayson Allen, Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins). Fans are beside themselves. The activity they all agree on is in full swing: criticizing, and ultimately, firing coaches. One invention that has made talking about firing coaches so much more enjoyable – as well as make the fan sound like an expert – is analytics.

Black Monday has come and gone and with it, several NFL coaches. Others are treading on thin ice. Or on they on the hot seat? Coaches get it from both ends of the thermometer. This year, as with every other, many, many college coaches received pink slips (although not nearly enough to satisfy the fans). Close games that were lost were proof that the coach choked, while close victories were either due to luck or should have been blowouts.

This NBA season might set the record as far as disappointing its followers, as there are some pundits currently claiming that this year will see no – as in zero – NBA head coaches dismissed. Seems as though the new coaches will be given at least another year to try to turn around the mess they inherited. Chip Kelly must be wishing he’d gone into hoops.

Wait, won’t there still be 14 teams not make the playoffs? So shouldn’t at least two-thirds of those teams change head men? Plus at least a quarter of those who made the playoffs? Every true fan can name 3-4 teams that would have done better with different guys leading those teams (even if those 3-4 teams change depending upon which fans you ask).

College is a little different. People aren’t nearly as close to pro coaches, so it’s easier to criticize someone who’s making a ton of money and not winning (or getting his team to cover for those of you who watch games for more than just the purity of the sport). College coaches are different. Fans may actually know the coach, or at least have met him at a function (alumni, service organization) where the school forced requested him to speak. Having shaken a person’s hand, looked him in the eye and either told him you thought he was doing a good job or wished him luck, makes the coach human – and (nearly) everybody has some empathy. I mean, one-and-dones have drastically changed coaching strategies – and expectations. This makes speaking about firing him all the more difficult – until you get to a place where the majority of the people are calling for his head. Then, joining in becomes much easier – and, even, fun.

Jim Murray, the greatest sportswriter of all-time, once wrote, Nothing is ever so bad it can’t be made worse by firing the coach.”

How about we update Jim’s quote (since some might dismiss by saying it’s become outdated)? Here’s one I heard while listening to a podcast with Doc Rivers. Doc is a guy with a ton of security because he has so much credibility – a coach with an NBA championship on his resume and one of the most highly respected guys in the business (plus he’s got such a gimormous contract). When the question was posed to him about winning a championship. His answer was simplistic, but telling:

“People don’t appreciate how hard it is to win.”

Well, Back Then It Was Funny

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

In the late 1970s, NCAA basketball rules were different. Coaches were allowed to scout opponents in person. As coaches, we liked it because, being at the game, we could see actions and behaviors we couldn’t see on video, giving us valuable insight (“intel” as it’s referred to today) into players. Plus, we could actually hear calls from the bench which, naturally, helped once we played. In a cost cutting move, though, the NCAA did away with “live” scouting. Truthfully, with all the money that’s wasted in college basketball (and, even more, in football), it seems absurd. Then again, as many televised games as there are and as easy as it is to obtain video, scouting in person really is excessive, especially when the non-revenue sports (both men and women) have to cut so many corners. Don’t believe how much money these schools reportedly make; there are maybe a dozen athletics departments in the country that actually turn a profit.

But I digress. In 1979, as an assistant coach at Western Carolina University, I took a trip to Columbia to scout a game between the University of South Carolina (at that time an independent), and their in-state rivals, Furman University, (a perennial power in our league – the Southern Conference). Furman had a 6’8″ forward named Jonathan Moore, better known to everyone as “Stitch.” There was a reason he was the player of the year in the SoCon. He could score inside and out (although this was prior to the three-point line), run like a deer, block shots, played with passion and was an absolute rebounding demon.

Which team won escapes me now (although I’m fairly certain the Gamecocks prevailed on their home court) but I clearly do remember two things about that night. One was that it was a close game throughout and the other was Stitch absolutely went off. He had a fabulous game and it was clear to everyone in the building that he was the best player on the floor.

As I was waiting for a post game stat sheet, one of the sportswriters recognized me. He came over, we chatted about the game and then, he asked me a question. I’m unaware of the exact number of newspapers that carried my response (they got it off the AP wire – this was waaaaay before the Internet) but, had it happened today, suffice to say, it would have gone viral. I had coaching colleagues from all parts of the country send copies from their local papers with blurbs about it. Oh yeah, one other item. I’m fairly sure, had it happened today, I would have been, at the very least, reprimanded. Maybe arrested.

Here was our exchange (as closely as I can recall):

Sportswriter: “Wow, that was some game!”

Me: “Sure was.”

Sportswriter: “How are you guys going to stop Stitch?”

Me: “Easy. We’re going to double team him.”

Sportswriter (with a stunned look on his face because he knew our roster): “What two guys you gonna put on him?”

Me: “Smith & Wesson”

The NBA’s Solution to Problems Between Players and Referees

Friday, December 30th, 2016

Ever since the first ball was tossed up at center court, players and referees have been antagonists. While the NBA has, by far, the best officials in the basketball, its players complain more than any other. The reactions by the pros are on the upswing. We’re currently at the point in professional basketball that when a player takes the ball to the basket and a foul is called, the player who got committed the transgression looks at the referee in disbelief, arms straight up in the air, signaling he was in completely legal position – while the opposing team’s trainer is on the floor putting the guy who’s about to shoot free throws through concussion protocol. If the situation is reversed and an offensive foul is the call, the player who fouled stares at the referee as if he insulted the player’s mother, even if roots came out of the floor where the defender’s feet were planted.

What about when the player scores and there’s no whistle, you ask? It’s a sure bet the offensive player will be complaining to the ref, hitting his hand, wrist, elbow or head, that it should have been an “and 1″ situation. The job of officiating is a thankless one – and it doesn’t pay nearly as much as you think – considering the amount of abuse they have to take from players, coaches, fans and, even, the announcers. And I’m not just talking about the homers but the network guys who don’t have a stake in the outcome.

Players have always had the ability to bitch about the officials but only one time a year and no names were allowed. How can the NBA correct such a grievous circumstance? Well, with the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), as of next season, there’s a clause in it that says, “… players for the first time will have a hotline to call in to critique the work of refs in their games. They’ll be able to report not just on where they think the official botched a call, but also if they found a ref to be out of line, verbally, with how they handled blow-ups. Basically, they can complain like never before. The hotline is a response to the league allowing the new monthly reviews so that players can report something they thought was handled incorrectly while it’s still fresh in their minds.”

Other than one instance (granted, that we know of), officials make every attempt to be impartial, i.e. they look at their job as enforcers of the rules. Of course they’re human (c’mon, give them the benefit of the doubt) and they’re prone to make mistakes but, they work their butts off. Contrary to what some fans say, there are no hidden agendas. At least, other Tim Donaghy’s gambling issues, none have been proven. Since there are always two sides to every story, maybe the league should allow officials to have their own hotline to call in – while it’s still fresh in their minds – and give their two cents (about the ratio to what they make to what they players pull down) regarding players who might have been out of line, along with those back stories.

The way technology is exponentially improving, soon players will have phones sewed into their uniforms or implanted in their bodies. When that time comes, players will be calling the NBA office before the official is done informing the scorer’s table of the infraction. And imagine what the cost of advertising among the phone companies would be then. Just think, the players could rewrite the CBA and get even more money.

“Is this a great country or what?”

 

Terry Bradshaw Suffering from Terminal Hard On

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

If you haven’t heard the latest gossip from the world of professional football, pull up a chair and get a load of this. Terry Bradshaw, an icon in Pittsburgh – a city in which they take their icons very seriously – criticized the Steelers’ head coach, Mike Tomlin, calling him “a great cheerleader guy.” Why would Bradshaw go public on the leader of his “alma mater” so soon after they clinched a playoff spot? Keep in mind that Tomlin has a Super Bowl championship on his Steelers resume.

That doesn’t seem to matter to Bradshaw. Turn back the clock a decade or so ago and you’ll recall the same guy throwing less than kind words about another Steelers championship coach – the one and only Chuck Noll. The two of them were the greatest coach-quarterback combination of the Super Bowl era – the mere fact that they won four Super Bowls seems to both begin and end that argument. In fact, I spent one of those glory years (1976-77) living in Pittsburgh where people must be really confused because of the nine states I’ve lived inhabited, nowhere are folks more proud of “their own” than in the ‘Burgh.

Bradshaw’s complaint was Noll was too tough on his young quarterback from Louisiana, that young Terry was the type of guy who needed a hug every now and then. Recently, Bradshaw was a no-show at his former boss’ funeral. One would have thought Bradshaw would make have made an appearance if, for no other reason, than to have made sure.

Possibly, Bradshaw is “anti” Super Bowl-winners because he also has taken aim at Ben Roethlisberger who, like Terry, is a multiple Steelers Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Bradshaw most definitely is an equal opportunity critic as he made the statement below, taking to task another Pittsburgh Super Bowl-winning QB who has won several.

No one can say Bradshaw plays favorites. His tenure with the Steelers and his head coach, Noll, certainly had to have been a rocky one. When asked for a statement following the funeral of the revered coach, he took a swipe at still another championship signal caller - himself. Here’s what he had to say about the winningest coach-QB combination (certainly as far as winning the most brass rings is concerned):

“I’m proud to have played for (Noll). It was a great honor. My relationship wasn’t good, as you well know, but he made me understand my job responsibilities, because I had to grow up.”