Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thursday Thoughts on Sports

Oak Tree at Sundown

S.O.L. was upset to hear about the news that Wimbledon is finally, finally going to start paying women tennis players the same money that the men get. Well, it’s a little late for S.O.L. and her devastating forehand, isn’t it?

Truth be told, the differences in pay are small -- the ladies' finals winner got 95 percent of the men's champ last year -- but surely principle is worth five percent.

Still, we think this is fair as the women draw just as much (perhaps more) fans to the tour than the men do. They deserve an equal cut of the proceeds. The fun detail of this story is that Wimbledon officials have been under pressure for years and years to make this change and perhaps the final tipping point came from what some might see as an unlikely source.

Two years ago, on the eve of her finals match against Lindsay Davenport, Venus Williams went with the WTA's Larry Scott to a meeting of Grand Slam officials and "made her point in very articulate fashion," Scott told the New York Times in an article that's to run in tomorrow's issue. It's already on line at (There's that word again, UMB. :-D)

It's a beautiful thing to see the Williams' sisters changing tennis off the court as much as on.

Trade Winds

The NBA trade deadline passed with a whimper this afternoon with a handful of small deals being done – and none involving any of the big names who were said to be on the block. Still in the same unis are Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Mike Bibby.

What did happen was the lowly Portland Trailblazers sending Juan Dixon to the rising Raptors for Fred Jones – both backup guards. Yawn.

Most of the trade talk circled around New Jersey star PG Jason Kidd going to Los Angeles to play with All-Star MVP Kobe Bryant. The general consensus was that it would be a great deal for the Lakers, as long as they didn’t give up too much for him.

As it was, though, the Nets weren’t going to just give them Kidd, even if it would help them with cap room space so they could go after a marquee free agent in time for the opening of their new arena after next season. Speculation has they were offered Chris Mihm, Kwame Brown (both of whom are on the injured list, Mihm out for the entire year) and Jordan Farmar, with Farmar being the star of that deal. But they wanted either Lamar Odom or the young center Andrew Bynum and the Lakers balked.

We thought the best analysis of this trade came from an unlikely source, ESPN broadcaster and Hall of Famer Bill Walton. Walton is a smart guy but he tends to be too emotional – on both sides of the spectrum. Either he kisses serious ass or he hates you. There is no middle ground with Bill, it seems. In the interest of fair disclosure, S.O.L. once lent her cassette tape (this was back in the day, folks) of one of Bob Dylan's recent blues albums (we're talking early 90s) and he never returned it. So we've been a bit down about the Red Head.

At any rate, we like his take on the Kidd/Kobe combo which is that their styles of play are just not compatible. Kobe likes to handle the ball and create his own offense (and at least this season, try to involve his teammates). Kidd is a distributor who can score if he needs to but would rather pass first. Kidd needs the ball 12/48 and while he's no Steve Nash, he's a pretty good pure point. Neither one of these guys, Walton argues, move all that well without the ball. I think the way he put it was that they'd be standing around watching the other guy dribble. We have to agree with Bill in that we can’t see how this combo would make the Lakers better.

Which is not to say the Lakers do not need to get better. In recent weeks, the most overrated team in the league this season, has come down to earth. For the first time in Philip’s career, he has lost six games in a row. Yes, S.O.L. is a Kobe hater but would someone please defend his play at the end of the last few games? You know when he takes a ridiculously long three-pointer with plenty of time left on the shot clock instead of trying to work the ball around for a better look? Sure, he does make those crazy ass shots but he doesn’t always make them, and he doesn’t have to, what with four other guys on the court with him.

He has a learned behavior at the end of games which has given him a rep of being a tremendous clutch player. But I would make the argument that for every one of those Hail Mary’s that go in, a whole lot of them don’t. For every time he makes a last-gasp, buzzer-beater to win or tie a game, that same stupid shot costs his team a chance to stay in games late, games (like last night in Portland or twice recently against the Cavs or at home against the Knicks) that became losses but should be wins.

Following this to its logical conclusion, S.O.L. believes that while Kobe is extremely smart and a very skilled player, he is not gifted with the same sort of basketball I.Q. that would place him in the category of the great players of our era, with whom he is constantly being compared.

The the jury’s out on Lebron’s bball I.Q. because there’s just not a big enough sample yet but if you watch how Steve Nash, Dwayne Wade, Tim Duncan, and perhaps Kevin Garnett play basketball, you will see players who seem to adjust within the flow of the game in a way that doesn’t make you wonder if they know there are four other guys on the floor.

In recent weeks, too, Kobe has added a new dimension to his game – not playing defense. And yet another, which is driving to the hoop hard, not getting a foul called and dropping out of the play while the rest of his team races back to defend his T.O. He even took a bunch of boneheaded shots in the All-Star game – just because he was rewarded with the MVP, doesn’t mean he plays the game right. Just ask any hold ‘em player about losing his AK to a seven deuce off-suit.

Sad News

Speaking of great players, S.O.L. has just learned while writing this the sad, sad, sad news (as reported by friend and former colleague Ric Bucher at that Celtics legend Dennis Johnson has died suddenly, at the age of 52.

Johnson was the MVP of the 1979 NBA finals which saw the SuperSonics beat the Washington Bullets. Later, he teamed with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish for the Celtics 1984 and ’86 NBA Championships.

S.O.L. met the man they called DJ when she was in Los Angeles and he was an assistant coach for the Clippers (he actually filled in as their head coach when they fired Alvin Gentry with 24 games to go in the 2003 season). He was a great guy. Smart, funny and S.O.L. thinks would have been a great, great head coach. At the time of his death he was the head coach of the Celtics D-league squad, and it remains a mystery to S.O.L. why he was never offered a head-coaching job in the NBA.

R.I.P. DJ.

1 comment:

Undercover Black Man said...

Beautiful photo. Great Kobe analysis.

I'm still setting aside Cancer Pt. 2 for the right time. (I'm midway between Detroit and D.C., travelling by rental car.)