The Olympics

The London games are on and already the events have been fantastic:

Misty May and Kerri Walsh are incredible –In a tough opening round game, the two ladies who have won the past two Olympic Gold medals in Beach Volleyball managed to come out on top.  In their amazing Olympic careers Misty and Kerri have never lost a set.  Not a match, but not a set either.  An unbelievable run of dominance – and their first match in 2012 showed why.  Twice they got down to the Aussies (themselves previous medalists) and twice Misty May simply took over.  She made digs that virtually no one else could get.  She dove and dipped and made incredible one handed saves; they simply took over.  There is a reason these ladies will probably win a medal, and they will be tough to beat.

The US Basketball Team vs The Dream Team…settled – The US Mens Team won their first game against France pretty handily, but the big news is that LeBron and Kobe are continuing to fuel the fire by saying they could beat the Dream Team.  Before everyone flips out, lets remember just how much we are overvaluing the Dream Team.  Yes, there were 11 Hall of Famers on the team.  Yes, they dominated subpar competition.  Yes, they had Michael Jordan.  However…

Today’s athletes are simply better.  They have better training, better nutrition and all kinds of physical advantages.  Imagine Dwight Howard playing on this team – some have called him the best defensive player of all time.  In a perfect world “the Supreme Team” (as I will now refer to the 2012 team with Howard as) would have Howard and Tyson Chandler (no stiff himself) as their centers.  LeBron, Kobe, Melo, Durant, Love round out the forward / shooting guard positions.  Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Rose (perfect world) and Wade round out the point guard / scorer position.  As I see it, the only advantage the Dream Team has is in the Power Forward position – Malone / Barkley would be tough to guard…however, LeBron could do it and neither of them would be able to handle him on the other end.  Kobe / Jordan would challenge each other and Jordan would probably win the battle but Kobe would score too.  Few on the Dream Team could handle LeBron.  And then there is the Supreme Team’s true victory – at point guard.  As much as we want to believe Magic was still elite at this point, he was not.  Bird was virtually useless.  Paul, Westbrook, Williams, Rose and Wade would eat John Stockton alive.  Magic would be unable to guard the quicker, much more athletic point guards.  Up front, Clyde Drexler would be useless spelling Jordan against more athletic players and Kevin Love would be a matchup nightmare because of his shooting ability.  And then there is LeBron.  He is playing like a better Larry Bird and his passing is unlike anything the Dream Team had.  He is bigger and stronger than Barkley or Malone and would be virtually unstoppable.  Scottie Pippen was a great defender but LeBron would be too strong for him.  Then you have scoring machine Kevin Durant.  If you have to focus all your energy on LeBron (possibly double teaming him) the point guards / Durant would simply dominate.

In the end the Dream Team might win a few games, but the Supreme Team would win.

Before you throw your computer across the room hear me out: Picture a pre-Dream Team era team.  Think about Wilt, Russell, Cousy, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and the Big O being on an Olympic Team.  They would have dominated completely.  We would have called them the best team ever.  Jordan would have gone on record saying that his team would win for sure.  The old timers, like Russell would have called him crazy.  So would the media and fans.

Twenty years later the same thing is happening…how would Chris Mullin do against LeBron?  End the silliness now and bow to the next generation.

It is not Bejing –Michael Phelps dominated in Bejing and has struggled in London.  He is older and missed two years of training.  Could his all-time medal haul be in jeopardy?  He finished 4th in an event he has owned for 8 years.  In the relay (with his teammate and the current best swimmer in the world Ryan Lochte) the US team took silver.  Again, we need to remind ourselves, Phelps is past his dominating prime.  Could he still grab a few golds?  Of course, but do not expect him to do what he did in Bejing.

The Opening Ceremonies were sort of bizarre – I liked them, I really did.  There were some very cool moments (James Bond, the Rings, the Torch) but I do not think I loved them.  They were…weird.  Very, very weird.

Welcome to LeBron’s MJ ’92 Moment

The ’92 Dream Team widely called the greatest collection of professional athletes in history was, without a doubt, Michael Jordan’s team.  At the time he was coming off a second consecutive championship – in which he has slapped around fellow Dream Teamer Clyde Drexler – and was at the apex of his physical abilities.

In 2012 LeBron has won his 1st NBA championship (in his 2nd straight appearence) over fellow Olympic teammates Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook and has never played better than he did this postseason.  He reached a level Kobe never did – a level few others ever have.  LeBron is literally on top of the world and this Continued Dream Team is without doubt his team.  Had he lost the title to Durant it could have caused all kinds of alpha dog problems but he did not.  Instead LBJ so thoroughly dominated the series that he left little doubt who is one of the five best players of all-time.

Now as opposed to the 2008 “Redeem Team” where Kobe, Wade, LeBron and Melo were all in the running for alpha dog – LBJ was still a few years from Miami and Kobe had just lost the NBA Finals while Wade was already a champ – LeBron is clearly the man.  He has never played at a higher level than right now and the Olympic Team is his team.  LeBron is the alpha dog and the best player on the planet and everything will run through him.  The pressure also rests squarely on him as the team is at little more than half strength due to the overwhelming losses of many key players.  James has had to play center at many times during their warmup games (as has Melo) and even playing at half speed he is the best player in the world.

Welcome to LeBron’s MJ Moment (as a younger, stronger guy) where he gets to sit confidently atop the NBA pyramid and atop the Olympic Team.  Is it somewhat fitting that the first NBA Dream Team was led by Jordan and now the last could be led by LeBron?

The symmetry feels right and after the US Team romps through the tournament and LeBron raises his second straight gold medal he will be atop the basketball world and bask in the moment.

His moment.

We might as well get used to it – he is only 27.

The Dwightmare Continues…

Another week, another twist or turn in the ongoing Dwightmare that has plagued the league for more than a full season.

I will pause to allow little fact to sink in.  The saga of Howard leaving the Magic has now gone on for more than a full calendar year…and still continues.  It has gone on longer than LeBron’s band-aid ripping exit out of Cleveland or Chris Paul’s three week exit from New Orleans…or even Carmelo’s 7 month assassination of basketball in Denver and New York.  This situation is rapidly approaching a level of horror that would eclipse all of those previous situations…combined (okay.  Perhaps not the Melo thing which was also awful).

Why does it feel so much worse?  Simply because of Howard’s desperation to get out of the Orlando situation (as Melo did with Denver) and then the hammer blow of his fake show of loyalty.  Howard genuinely seems to care about how people see him and he has done virtually everything he can to murder his image.  As “The Basketball Jones” Lee Ellis stated “I hate Dwight Howard” which is a sentiment felt by nearly everyone.

Now, in the latest twist – after the Nets finally took a step back, looked in the mirror and had a moment of clarity in which they thought what the hell are we doing?  – the Lakers have become a major player in trade talks.  Howard has now said he will play there and sign a deal.  So…the place where we figured you were going to go the entire time is where you will end up.  Wow.  Thanks for not simply waiting until you were a free agent and just going there and instead causing massive problems for multiple franchises.  Houston bent over backwards for him and even signed Jeremy Lin.  If Howard genuinely wanted to make an impact he would go to the Rockets and connect with Lin and build a contender.

He wants the easy way though, which is why he wanted the Nets.

Now he will go to a contender in the Lakers…and two of my least favorite players will be on the same team.

With my favorite player.

The Dwightmare continues.

Catching Up

For the past couple of weeks I was on vacation in Italy / France (yes, I was in Italy during “the match – but more on that later) and missed a lot of huge stories from the world of sports.  In this post I will run through a gauntlet of info and opinions so please bear with me while I tackle old news.  Starting of course with…

Steve Nash to the Lakers – In many ways this is a dream scenario, and in many ways this is my ultimate nightmare.  The Lakers have made a couple of moves in the past few weeks that I am struggling to balance and make sense of: they picked up Steve Nash and one of my local town heroes Rob Sacre in the draft.  Two of my favorite guys on the same team…with my least favorite player in NBA history, Kobe Bryant.  Now the news is the Lakers are making a hard charge at the Dwightmare.  This is a tough one.  I desperately want Nash to get a ring / I desperately do not want Kobe to get one (keep in mind I respect the man immensely but do not want to see him get another ring).  If Dwight “Shawn Kemp-esque family man” Howard joins the mix – a man whom I have no respect for – I do not know what I will do.  My head will explode.

DWill and the new look Nets – The Nets made some moves, the biggest of which involved keeping “superstar” Deron Williams and trading for “max contract albatross” Joe Johnson.  Are they a playoff team now?  Sure.  Did they make a good choice not getting the Dwightmare?  I do not know.  They could be a good team but will not approach elite levels.  Yet, in a very weak East this year they could easily steal a 3 slot if Williams has the season we are all waiting for him to have.

Ray Allen says eff you to the Celtics – The Miami Heat made a huge move to keep up with everyone else in the league and picked up two of the best three point shooters of all time in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.  Wow.  Allen throws a huge finger at the Celtics and ends up making significantly less money to play for a much better team.  Fantastic.  He wants to win and he just might end up with more titles than Pierce and Garnett.  Lewis will provide instant offense off the bench and makes the Heat much more dangerous than ever.

RVP to Juventus / Man City / Man United… – From what I gathered from the Italian papers (and keep in mind my grip on the language is nonexistent) he is going to Juventus.  At least according to what I assume were witty puns the writers were using.  No need for other teams to stay in the running then I suppose.  City though, seems to want him just to keep him away from United.

Paris St. Germain makes some moves – PSG picked up Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic from AC Milan in what can only be called a bizarre move by the Italian Club.  Might just make PSG a Champs League contender.

I wish I could read Italian / French – On the cover of Italian Vanity Fair?  Mario Balotelli.  On the cover of French Vanity Fair?  Zinedine Zidane.  Pure gold and I could not understand any of it.

Spain impressive – Watching “the match” in Rome was nuts.  The streets were packed with flag wearing people and jerseys were everywhere.  The most common name?  Balotelli.  People genuinely love him in Italy and he responded with a fantastic tourney.  Spain was just better, exponentially so.  They controlled the game from the outset.  And then Fernando Torres snagged the Golden Boot.  Amazing, truly amazing.  As the Men in Blazers stated “he has had the best worst season ever”.  Spain cemented their place as one of the greatest teams ever.

Summer Sports Reading – What to do during these sports less months?  Read about sports of course!  Here are some suggestions (broken down by sport):

Basketball – The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons / Loose Balls by Terry Pluto / Unfinished Business by Jack McCallum / Wilt by Wilt Chamberlain.

Hockey – Net Worth by David Cruise and Allison Griffiths / The Game of Our Lives by Peter Gzosnowski / The Game by Ken Dryden

Baseball – The Devil Wears Pinstripes by Jim Caple

Soccer – Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby / Among the Thugs by Bill Buford / 40 Years of Shite

Football – Boys will be Boys by Jeff Pearlman

Enjoy the reads and hopefully we will have some final news on the Dwightmare shortly.

Happy Summer!