Saturday, June 9, 2007

Notes, or Lebron James is Ricky Davis

Hello all. Today, my new job offer, Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and in soccer news, the Gold Cup gets underway.

Let's get right to it.

- First, you'll see I re-titled all of my "Notes" entries. It just become a few too many, and I myself could hardly navigate among them. The headlines will just feature on one part of the post, though I will continue to cover multiple topics in individual posts. That's where the labels come in. I think the titles are prIetty much self-explanatory. "Battlefield girth" refers to how incredibly long that post became. And also, you can't make a reference to Battlefield Earth that's not funny. Not even this.

- Okay, now I need to address something. Some of you may have heard about this already. I, Mike Mullen, have been offered a very important job. And it looks like I'm going to take it. Though I'm not sure why.

I know this raises a lot of questions for you.

"But Mike, why didn't you ever mention that you held that kind of a position?" Look, I was in charge of the Navy. I'm not trying to downplay it, but, come on - this is the NBA playoffs, and I'm not going to lose readers just going on about my aircraft carriers.

"Mike, you said you were 20. You don't look 20." If there's anything more stressful than managing a branch of the armed forces, it's sports blogging. I've been aging rapidly since the NCAA tournament started. And then in my off hours, I'm in charge of the entire U.S. Navy? Come on. We're not fighting a lot in the water right now, but these aren't exactly rowboats out there.

"Mike, why do you want this job?" I'm not really sure. It seems like a fall-guy kind of job. If we get things under control in Iraq, all the credit's going to go the generals on the field. And that might be the right thing, but if things go poorly -- and how could they not? -- I get some blame, and I get tossed out of office in a couple years. And then what do I got? The lecture circuit? But again, it looks like I'm going to take it.

And finally, "Given your pending appointment as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will you continue to do your sports blog?" I don't see why not.

- All right, just a few very quick thoughts on Lebron James. He had a bad Game 1, and Cleveland only scored 76 points. It seemed oddly reminiscent of Game 1 against Detroit, where Lebron struggled and Cleveland scored only - you guessed it - 76 points. So Lebron, having just survived that series against a battle-tested team, knows that a series does not pivot on its first game. But Game 2...

Cleveland has lost only one game at home in these playoffs, and that was the Game 5 shocker against New Jersey. Cleveland then followed that by storming out to an early lead in New Jersey before letting the Nets come all the way back in the fourth quarter. But after New Jersey got to within one point, Lebron got Cleveland from 67 points up to 86 over six minutes, and that was all it took.

That sounds familiar.

6-3-07, "Notes, or Kobe Bryant gets what he wants"
"And Lebron found a second wind in a five-minute span in the fourth quarter, when he got them from 77 points to 92. And that was all it took."

In the clinching games of the last two series, Lebron has helped pile-up a bunch of points -- when it seemed like no one had it going -- and made his team win the game.

This feels a bit like last year's Finals, where the Heat had by far the best player on the floor - Wade - and then Dallas might have had second, third, and fourth. (Nowitzki, Howard, and Terry.) But nearly every time it mattered, Wade had the ball in his hands and made something happen. That left it up to his teammates to get a few, even just a couple stops in the closing minutes. Defense and hustle make for a good combination with a single great player.

Let me remind you that Malik Rose, James Posey, and Samaki Walker have all won NBA championships in the last few years. Not one of those guys has any recognizable skill other than "tall." Can you imagine those three playing a game of HORSE? You'd send them out on a nice summer afternoon, and then come see who won in November.

If Cleveland can muck up the game enough, and is only losing by 5 or 8 points, and Varejao and Gooden can make a couple plays... Cleveland can win Game 2, or even a Game 6.

Now, one note on Lebron. I remember when he was a rookie, and I think he played a Christmas day game against Tracy McGrady's Magic. At one point, T-Mac was guarding Lebron and knew that the shot clock was winding down. McGrady got right up on Lebron, who had the ball some 20 feet from the hoop. McGrady jumped just as Lebron jumped, and had his hand up to block the shot. But Lebron simply shot -- shot, not threw -- the ball way up... the ball left the screen... then splashed back down and in to beat the clock.

I can't find a clip of that, but I realized at that point -- having already seen Lebron's dunks and passes -- that nothing was impossible for this kid. (Nothing.)

- Also, our men's national team has won five games this year, and tied the other. After a snoozer finished 0-0 against Guatemala in March, we beat their "defense first, defense second" strategy on Thursday on a goal from Clint Dempsey for a 1-0 result in our first pool game of the Gold Cup. I'll have to get to Dempsey at some later date, but one person is demanding that I say something about him: Bob Bradley. The rookie U.S. coach has gotten the team to show up five out of six games, and let's make clear that those are his first six games as coach. Seems like a good sign for Bob. (Not so much this guy.)

They're not just winning. They're scoring good goals, they're scoring on penalties and free kicks, and they are not just watching the other team on defense. They're taking some risks, they're beating the other team to loose balls and they tend to look like they might win the game.

They play again in about an hour, meeting Trinidad and Tobago in their second game of the Gold Cup.

So a quick programming note on where to find the game: you're going to have to get Fox Soccer Channel. I should make it clear then, that the Gold Cup is an international tournament. And not only are these games on during reasonable broadcast times, they're being played here, on American soil.

Not only did ESPN not buy the rights to these games, it let an optional, super-bundled-400 channel cable station beat it out. Now I don't get the Fox Soccer Channel, so when the Guatemala game started, I checked-in with the live blog on the ussoccer website. After the game was over, picked-up the AP story, and I kept checking back to the site for the highlights. At least, you know, they'd put up Dempsey's goal.

Well, you can go looking right now, and the only place you're going to find it is youtube.

You got big fat pockets, ESPN. Next time, talk to the national team. Try to get it so these games don't run up against the NBA Finals and the Belmont Stakes. Then reach into your pockets, and buy some coverage of a sport that isn't three year old poker. I know they've done very well lately, but there's some part of me that would be happy if they lost a ton of money on their commitments to the Hey What's With the Walls League and the National Turn Left Association. Instead, I'm afraid these things will play out well for them, and I'll have to leave this country for good after some time.

More on that next time. I mean it.

Now, where did I put the keys to the U.S.S. Louisville?

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