#Race48

This is how these Celtics do it! Lose three straight, including a pathetic home game to the lowly Pistons, but then move back into the 8th seed with an Indiana loss and an impressive win at Brooklyn. Evan Turner gets a triple double. Jae Crowder keeps coming up big, even replacing Marcus Smart at the beginning of the second half. Gerald Wallace gets rewarded for his huge game against the Pistons by not getting off the bench. This is the ultimate enigma team.

Now they get to renew their rivalry with their huge upcoming game with the 7th seeded Heat. LeBron? Gone. KG? Gone. Rondo? Gone. Jesus Shuttleworth? Gone. The Truth? Gone.

But D-Wade’s still there and so is Brandon Bass. Mario Chalmers?!?!?! Yes, Stephen A. He’s there too. #race48

Playoffs?!?

0714_TOINEAre the Celtics for real? Who knows. Is Brad Stevens a great coach? Sure seems like it. No matter who leaves or gets hurt, the Celtics keep playing pretty good. Rondo traded. They are 21-22 since. Green traded. They are 17-13 since. Sullinger hurt. They are 10-5 since. They are also 10-4 since getting Isaiah Thomas, but only 6-4 in games he actually played.

They are 13-6 since the beginning of February, and 8 different players have led the team in scoring in those 13 wins. Tyler Zeller and Evan Turner are both revelations. They are getting quality minutes from Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko. Brandon Bass is having a career year.

But what are they? They have no stars, no real go to guys, at least none over 6 feet tall. They are young, but they are relying on journey-men more than lottery picks. They aren’t dominating and they aren’t sucking. They are winning some of the close games they were losing earlier, but they play almost every game close. They are fun to watch because they compete with a wide array of role players who keep playing hard when the supposed stars disappear. It doesn’t seem to matter who is on the court game to game, they keep competing and keep winning more than you’d expect.

If they beat OKC and the Spurs on the road this week, the narrative will change again. Assuming they don’t, they are still fun, over-achieving competitors and a huge credit to Brad Stevens.

‘principal rivals are the Cardinals. It’s not San Francisco’–Yasiel Puig

He’s right. The Dodgers keep getting stopped by the Cardinals in the playoffs. That’s why they haven’t made the WS in forever.

It’s the Cardinals that see the Giants as their principal rivals, because they are the one’s the Giants keep beating on their way to 3 championships in 5 years.

Danny Ainge is so 2000 and Late

images The Celtics won again tonight. They continue to hover just beyond that 8th playoff spot, despite Danny Ainge doing everything he can to tank. If the Celtics were trying to make the playoffs, a trade right now for a guy like Jeff Green might make sense, wouldn’t it? We’re not trying to make the playoffs, and you have to wonder if Danny is going to trade guys like Zeller, Prince, Bradley, and Bass because they are actually helping the team win.

If tanking works and we start winning in 3 years, I still would question whether it was worth 5 years of constant tanking.

But I’m starting to wonder if tanking was a strategy of the early 2010s and not the mid 2010s and beyond. Because in 2010, LeBron and Kobe dominated over anyone and everyone, and to compete, you had to have a star of that magnitude. The NBA in 2010 was a star’s league. But is it now? LeBron looks like a 30 year old LeBron, which is the best player in the NBA but not insurmountable. Stephen Curry is a worthy MVP, but the Warriors aren’t going to win on his back (he may not even be the MVP on his team). The two best records in the NBA belong to teams, most notably the Atlanta Hawks with a team of “who?”

This new team model ought to mean that tanking for superstars is kind of a waste. Atlanta and Golden State’s strategy of building around a group of very good players and let them jell can now work. If the Celtics hadn’t started tanking two years ago, could they be competing now? KG is in major decline; Pierce isn’t going to carry the team anymore. But with a trade here, a free agent signing there, the basic core of that team could have been competitive. Play the salary cap and free agent market correctly, and you can overcome a lack of top draft pics. And without a great Miami Heat team, or a great OKC, or a great LA Lakers, or a great D-Rose led Chicago Bulls, they could be competing to win right now, certainly not as the odds on favorite, but as a scrappy team that would be in the running.

Instead, the conventional wisdom has so declared that “mediocre” teams can’t win, and that it’s championship with superstars or bust, that Danny gets a completely free pass to gut this team for years all on the possibility that this might work because it has worked for…. OKC? There’s no way Danny would have kept this current Hawks team together, and I’m not sure he wouldn’t have given up on the Warriors too. Curry didn’t become a star overnight and they arguably hit a ceiling last year with guys like Lee and Iguodala starting to decline. He certainly would have traded Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli how many years ago?

The Next Ray Allen, Redux

More than 25 months ago, I declared a Golden State Warrior to be the next Ray Allen only to sit very quietly and realize that the other Golden State Warrior shooting guard, the one I didn’t pick, was becoming arguably far better than Ray Allen ever was. I’ve been biding my time knowing that at some point,

Klay Thompson would score 37 points. In a quarter.

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But here’s a looming problem for the Warriors season. It’s only half way, but looking at the standings, it’s going to be hard for them to avoid the OKC Thunder in the first round of the playoffs

There Goes the New Year’s Resolution

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My resolution was to better deal with the ever-increasing ADD by deeply reducing my way too constant use of social media. Because social media perpetuates itself and it changes our brain. Standing in line waiting for coffee is too long. There are at least three emails, five posts on Facebook, and who knows how many on twitter in the 5 minutes I’m waiting for my grande espresso. So, I put my phone away this morning as part of the broader plan to just sit and enjoy a single moment, whatever that moment is. And what better single moment to begin with than New Year’s Day Premiership. Nothing like the unique deliberate pace of a soccer game to settle in and focus.

Unfortunately, my new year’s resolutions were immediately foiled by NBCSN’s decision to go back and forth between 8 different games over two hours. A minute for a corner kick in one game, followed by a goal in the next, followed by a shot off the woodwork in the next. I saw Burnley hit the goal posts 4 times and score twice. I saw three goals in 5 minutes between Man City and Sunderland. It was dizzying, it was disjointed, and it was totally exciting. When it was over, I had to watch a 5-3 Chelsea-Tottenham game that had way too much midfield play for me to concentrate. Thanks, NBCSN.

All Lives Matter in Sports, too

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The ugliness out of Florida State keeps getting worse. Yesterday, Jameis Winston evaded the charge of rape again, this time in front of a retired judge representing the student conduct code board who was attempting to determine a set of facts in which Winston  refused to answer the questions of his accuser with anything even remotely resembling a “fact”–he just refused to answer, as did his roommates who were witnesses. It’s at least somewhat surprising they are still refusing to answer questions; after all, they got rid of most of the relevant evidence two years ago.

In response, Florida State University rewarded their head coach, Jimbo Fisher, with an 8 year contract. Bleacher Report’s Brian Pedersen thought it was a good deal with no reference to his role defending Winston. ESPN talk shows used the day as an opportunity to talk about Winston’s draft status.

People can debate what happened between Winston and the woman, even if this case seems creepily similar to so many others in college sports. The real issue is the complete lack of accountability on the part of Winston to get away with obstruction and refuse to respond to the accusation, even in the face of national media pressure. ESPN and the NYTimes have run countless articles showing how dirty this story is, with the latest coming from Juliet Macur. But seemingly nothing is going to make Jameis Winston accountable. And now, after declaring innocence in the latest hearing where Winston and his friends refused to answer questions, the sports media is ready to put the event in the past and focus on his draft status. And someone is going to draft him in the first round. I hope Florida State wins the national championship–better to make this as big and prominent a statement of hypocrisy as possible. Not that anyone will notice because we all got outraged after we saw the Ray Rice assault video and so we are satisfied in our response.

After Winston, it’s hard to know who to be the most disgusted with: his slimy lawyer, his tone deaf and enabling coach, the police in Tallahassee, college football fans, or the corrupt president of Florida State University that presides over it all. Adding to this pile of shiftiness and shittiness, the current FSU president replaced the president who was in charge last year during year 1 of the Winston coverup scandal–that guy, Eric Barron, left FSU for, wait for it, Penn State to “clean” up their reputation after their sexual assault scandal.

Happy holidays from college football, America!