What’s that? A series win? Who cares if the O’s barely hung on or if the win was only against the Seattle Mariners, one of the only teams that struggles to score almost as much as Baltimore does? Even those who hate Andy MacPhail and the current roster only do so because they want to see the team win, and think there is a better way to get them to win. Or at least, I’d like to think so. So in that spirit, a win is a win and a series win is even better. Perhaps the Orioles can reel off another one against the Indians and start crawling out of that 2-16 hole. Okay, I won’t get too far ahead of myself. You know we have to talk some playoffs today, so let’s line up for the kick…
LeBron Will Take the Headlines, but Not the Championship
After two performances in which LeBron James appeared disinterested, hesitant, and at times lost, the Cavaliers were bumped from the playoffs by a suddenly healthy Boston Celtics team. Since before the season, most people were aware that when healthy, the Celtics are arguably the best team in the NBA. The problem has been of course that they’re never healthy, and haven’t been since they won the title back in 2008. Kevin Garnett, for one, didn’t even participate in the playoffs last season, unless you count screaming obnoxiously from the sideline dressed in a suit. If you aren’t in your uniform, don’t talk trash- but that’s just me. Either way, the Celtics are moving on to face the Orlando Magic, a team that looks improved from last year with a healthy Jameer Nelson and with the addition of Vince Carter, a player who must be dying at this point in his career to have a shot at a championship.
But of course for the rest of the NBA postseason it doesn’t matter how the Suns-Lakers series turns out, or whether the Magic can return to the NBA Finals, it is all about LeBron. Will he stay? Will he go? Any effort of mine to predict what he might do would be rather ridiculous- this isn’t a stats based decision and we don’t even know what weighs most prominently in his mind. Besides, aren’t athletes, particularly elite athletes, notoriously unpredictable? But that will be the talk of the sports world until he decides to sign a contact elsewhere. Coaches will be hired, players signed all in the hopes of swaying LeBron to come to their team. However, NBA franchises would be wise to remember that LeBron won’t deliver your city a championship alone. He has a decent supporting cast in Cleveland and never won a title; it is a collection of very good players who will generally win over a team of one great player and four also-rans. If I were an NBA franchise in need of a spark, I would try to sign a couple of the other possible free agents- having Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade together or Dirk Nowitzki and Joe Johnson together would make my team a lot better than LeBron alone. Let’s not forget, there are a lot of A-listers in this free agent crop.
NHL Eastern Conference Playoffs Defy Reality
The Montreal Canadiens, the Yankees of the NHL, are playing the Cinderella this postseason, with the #8 seed taking out the #1 seeded Capitals and reigning champion Penguins in consecutive rounds, to force their way into the Eastern Conference Finals against the winner of the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers Game 7. The Flyers are on their own run, coming back from a 0-3 deficit in the series to force a deciding match. If they win, they will be the first team since the 1975 Islanders to win a seven game series after falling behind 0-3. Oh yea, and the Flyers are the #7 seed in the East. They say home ice means little in hockey, despite the typically raucous crowds. Home teams only win 55% of the time, a point that is accentuated when there is only one home game difference between the underdog and the higher seed. If the Flyers should win tonight, hockey will have the ultimate battle of the unlikely contenders, and fan bases that anticipated an early exit will have a treat as they try to make their own run to the Stanley Cup. In that case, regardless of who makes it to the finals, they will have their own Cinderella story to write.
Coach Calipari Needs to Give It a Rest
Did I say all playoffs? Oh well. Current Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari has been tied to about a half dozen jobs in the NBA this offseason, despite having only been in Kentucky for all of 14 months. I understand he had NBA experience and feels like he has grown into a better coach since then, so there are naturally going to be rumors. However, Coach Cal has done nothing to squash these rumors- he could say unequivocally “I am not going to the NBA” and be done with it, but he wants to keep the door open. But why? I understand the premise of leaving one’s job for a better one, I completely understand that. It happens, especially in coaching and especially when your administration isn’t supporting you or your staff (which is why I have no problem with Rich Rodriquez). It is different when you happen to be coaching the best players in the country at one of the best programs in the country with an administration and fan base that will give you everything you want in order to win.
He may still want the NBA, and the NBA may still want him, but does that entitle him to renege on his agreement with Kentucky just 14 months into his time there? 4 or 5 years down the line, sure. But one year? Let’s say the heads to the Nets, but the Lakers want him in 2012- does he bail then too? I wish we could live in a world where coaches and schools stood by their agreements- ideally contracts would mean binding, and the school couldn’t jettison a coach for one bad year and coaches couldn’t take advantage of smaller schools by bolting as soon as they have success. But Coach Cal knows the system, and he isn’t afraid to use it.
*if any of you read that title at first and thought it said “Burning Couches Edition,” you are true Maryland fans.