I realize that there are other sports being played right now, but the more I try to give hockey and baseball their just attention, I can't keep my eyes off of the NBA Playoffs right now. I suppose I am justified in some ways, since I don't get the networks necessary to see any hockey during the week, but rather the few televised games on the weekend. Likewise, the only baseball I get to see is on the ESPN networks during the week, where 2-3 games are broadcast opposite the drama of the hoops games that have been played over the last few days. So I either have to sacrifice my NBA post-season viewing and watch some regular season baseball (of which, there is a whole-lotta) or move back to Toledo so I can get the Canadian network and watch hockey. Obviously, that ain't gonna stir the Kool-Aid for this guy, so if you read this blog, you're going to get basketball talk for the time being. Not only basketball, but a very large helping. Sorry, but that's how it goes.

So, the first one to two games of each playoff match-up have been played as I place my fingers to the keys, and I am already stoked as all get out. The first game between the Spurs and Suns was bananas, with two OT's and enough game saving shots down the stretch to last for an entire series. I still can't believe Timmy Duncan hit that three to extend the game and I think that the shot that Steve Nash hit to tie the game just before Manu Ginobili won it for the Spurs is not getting the props it deserves. I know it didn't end up winning the game but that 3-ball from the corner that Nash drilled is why the guy is a two-time NBA MVP. Can't wait to watch the remainder of that series, where each contest is set up to feel like a game 7.

A surprise in the east's first round, with the 76ers taking away home-court by beating the all-world Detroit Pistons in game one. I've said before that the east is definitely a two-horse race between the Celtics and the Pistons unless LeBron James reaches even higher levels of performance, and even though Detroit lost, I'll stick to that prediction. The 76ers beat the Pistons the way teams always do, by staying focused throughout the game and not giving up when the Motor-City's finest started to blow them out. I swear, I've never seen a team get bored the way the Pistons do. I used to think it was just a natural extension of their confidence and the chip on their shoulder that began before their Finals series with the Lakers. Now I see it more as condescending the opponent and the spectacular play of Andre Iguodala and the rest of the Sixers proved that the Pistons are definitely beatable when they're peering down their nose at you.

While game one of that series was a shock, the first two between the Wizards and Cavs have been everything I expected. The Wiz haven't beat the Cavs in the playoffs the last two years in a row, where the LeBron show has bounced the former Bullets out of the post-season in consecutive first-round series. Added to that, you had the one player you don't want to rile up (ask Chris Bosh's girlfriend) all riled up, as the Wizards' DeShawn Stevenson called King James "overrated". LeBron retorted with aplomb, likening the comment by Stevenson to Soulja Boy calling out Jay-Z. While LeBron is perhaps overstepping his bounds referring to himself as the Hova of the NBA, I thought it was an apt and hilarious response to some seriously ignorant shit (pun totally intended, rap fans) from Stevenson. Soulja Boy even took umbrage to James' analogy, which makes the whole situation even funnier.

I mentioned back when Yao Ming went down with his foot injury that it was the toughest of breaks for Houston Rockets fans, whose team was poised for greatness in the playoffs before the fracture, and the first two games of the Utah/Houston series have been clear evidence of that fact. The Rockets have turned into a similar team to the Cavs in the east, with one bright star in Tracy McGrady that has to shoulder far too heavy of a load for his team to win. McGrady played phenomenal defense in both games, lead his team at the offensive end and showed grit and determination that cannot be denied, but it just isn't enough for that team. At the end of both games he looked tired and overused, and now that the Rockets are also without the services of Rafer "Skip to My Lou" Alston, T-Mac's chance to lead the Rockets past the Jazz is just about lost in space. You can't drop the first two at home and then go into Utah and think you're going to take two from them, because those boys just don't slip up at home, period. That series is pretty much over before it got started and I feel for the players and fans of the Rockets across the board. Better luck next year guys.

I'm still picking the Lakers in the west and the Celtics in the east, both of whom are playing a pair of series that I probably won't even have to mention because they'll be done in four games a piece. The Celts are way too much for the Hawks and the Denver Nuggets simply do not play defense. Pau Gasol looks like he's playing high-school kids when the Nuggets are defending him and the rest of the Lakers. Yeah, I'm hoping against hope for a jump in the NBA time-machine to restore one of the greatest rivalries in the history of sports. It won't be Magic against Bird, but if those teams meet in the Finals, it will be a series for the books, trust me on that.

Speaking of the Lakers, sort of, I was having a conversation while watching the Phoenix/San Antonio game that I thought I would bring to the Hip and try and expand upon. We were talking about the Sonics moving to Oklahoma City and I mentioned that if it happens, which the NBA really, really wants, they absolutely have to change their name. The Lakers are the most egregious example of a league that has far too many teams whose mascots don't make any sense because of city changes, or are just plain stupid after further consideration. Weird mascots and nicknames are quirky and endearing in the college ranks, but in the NBA and other professional sports leagues, they're just idiotic.

The NBA has the Los Angeles (formerly Minneapolis) Lakers and Utah (formerly New Orleans) Jazz, which are obvious examples of teams that should have switched it up upon moving. I mean seriously, the whitest state in the union's team is named after a beautiful form of black music that has about as much to do with Mormonism and an over abundance of Republican voters as the city of Los Angeles (or the whole damn state of Cali) does with the "Land of 1,000 Lakes", Minnesota. Throw on top of that the Wizards, whose jerseys are somehow even sillier than their name, who had to change their mascot because a crime-ridden city's squad probably shouldn't be called the Bullets. Oh yeah, and the Memphis Grizzlies, who used to play in Vancouver, there's another one! Seriously, if your team moves, your name changes, this has got to be a rule. I can't think of another league where the team names are so obviously incongruous with the cities or states they are paired with. I'd like to get a few comments on other examples I'm leaving out from other leagues and teams, but I think the NBA has the oxymoronic title when it comes to franchise handles. Please feel to free to respond and submit other dumb-ass mascots/nicknames in pro sports, I think it will be a fun little exercise.


Yuppers, a rare non-sports mention about the movie "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters", which I saw at Tower's place over the weekend. I might be a little late in watching this wonderful documentary about video game players, but at this point I'm just glad to have seen it. The movie centers around a good v. evil showdown over Donkey Kong, with a regular, run of the mill sort of dork on one side and an egomaniacal weirdo with hair as bad as his neckties on the other. It's smart, funny and while it isn't sports, it is competition, so go out and rent it already. Mr. Awesome is worth the price of admission/rental on his own.

Here's the trailer if you're still not convinced:



I've been a busy boy lately and haven't posted in a bit, so while the general purpose of this post is to talk about the NCAA Tournament coming to a close, it feels a little late to be talking about the game. That being said, I'll briefly touch on a few topics and keep the championship game talk short, since at this point it's already in the rear view mirror.


The championship game of this year's NCAA Tournament was a dramatic contest between two very deserving teams. I think that it might have been the best championship game I've ever seen, with theatrics near the end and plenty of swings in momentum in the last three minutes. The close of the game was pretty much as chaotic as it could get and as much as I'd like to give Kansas all the credit for a truly never-say-die performance, what a collapse it was for the Memphis Tigers. If you're up 9 points with two minutes left, you should win the basketball game, plain and simple. Coaching and strategy should be able to last any team through two minutes of play when guarding a three possession advantage over the other squad.

I'd like to keep the focus off of the kids who played so well all tournament for the Tigers, like Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose, and simply give this loss to Coach Calipari, but the truth is that the players and coaching staff combined to put two hands around the Tigers' throat and let them choke away a national title. Coach Cal should have managed the clock better, substituted better and lit a bit more of a fire under his kids. Likewise, the players themselves needed to hit those all important free throws and keep their composure a bit better, the latter being something that Kansas and their experienced players showed in spades down the stretch.

I don't want to toot my own horn, but I will of course. I said that Kansas would win it all and that Memphis would see their poor free-throw shooting cost them in the tournament. It may have taken until the last minutes of the tournament's last game, but I turned out correct on the Tigers' charity stripe woes. Rose and CDR played a brilliant tournament and Joey Dorsey could've perhaps swung things in a different direction in the overtime period, but the fact is that Dorsey committed a stupid foul to make an early exit and Rose and Douglas-Roberts missed the free throws that champions make in the closing minutes of the biggest game of the year. The Jayhawks' Mario Chalmers should have never had the opportunity to hit that amazing three pointer at the end of regulation; one because Coach Cal should have had his team foul before a three could be attempted and two because the Tigers' stars should have sealed that game from the line.

All congratulations to the Jayhawks on stealing that game away at the end of regulation and an amazing tournament run. They are a deserving champion and won yours truly a little bit of scratch in the process. Rock Chalk indeed.


How exciting is this last week of the NBA season going to be? The west is so tight you couldn't get a piece of notebook paper between the top and bottom three of the playoff picture and you probably couldn't get a file folder between any of the teams from 1 through 9. Not only are the last couple of games going to determine whether or not a team makes the post-season, but the entire seeding of the playoffs hinges on a combination of wins, losses and tie-breakers that makes my head swim. While the east is basically a two-horse race between the Celtics and Pistons (unless that superman King James can turn his game up to other-worldly levels), the west is as tight as it ever has been and possibly ever will be. The Spurs, Hornets and Lakers are vying for the top seed, with the Rockets in striking distance as well. The Nuggets, Mavs and Warriors are clamoring for the final two playoff spots and a shot at one of the "top-tier" teams in the first round.

The seeding will come down to the last game of the season most likely, and while home court is truly important in any playoff run, it is amazing that who the top and bottom teams of the conference will play doesn't seem to matter for the first time in years. The parity in the west makes all of the match-ups even money if you ask me. I can't say that any of those teams is a clear favorite over any other in a seven game series. Seven game series of course, are supposed to be the easiest way to determine who is the superior team, but I have a feeling that if any of the top nine teams in the west played 15 against each other, it would still come out 8 and 7 nearly every time. I can't wait for the playoffs this year, and while the east may be a snooze fest until the conference finals, every game of the western playoffs should be a powder keg ready to blow.


What in the world has happened to the Detroit Tigers? I'm not bringing this up just as a fan, which I will be until my end, but as an observer of the game in general. They boast the league's premier line-up from one to nine in the order, a pitching staff that is young and sharp and a motivated and clear-headed manager in the dug-out. So what gives? How do they end up with the league's worst record and continue to struggle at the plate? The easy answer is to look at their bull-pen, where middle relief has been sub-par, and by sub-par I mean two levels above a bag of shit. How many more games are the Tigers going to blow between the 6th and 9th innings before they start to expand their payroll even further and shop for some bullpen talent? Todd Jones is a more than serviceable closer and Joel Zumaya when healthy will only add to the Tigers' closing potency, but something must be done between those huge starting arms and the competency of Zumaya and Jones.

I don't blame the Tigers' bats because hitting always comes in the majors. If you have the bats, they will eventually begin to swing true. The season is only 10 games old, with 150 more to go, so not every bat in the line-up is going to slump, even if some do not live up to their potential. Gary Sheffield for example, is having more and more trouble staying in the line-up the past couple of years, but there is simply too much talent on the Tigers offense for them to fail to score runs as they currently are. That bullpen simply must improve, or the Tigers, while they won't be the worst team in the league come the all-star break, could still be its biggest disappointment. The expectations for this team were in the stratosphere not just for the Detroit faithful, but for baseball experts nationwide. Something has to happen in the Motor City, or I'll have to revert to old coping methods that got me through their terrible run in the 1990s. Please don't make me return to those dark, dark days Tigers. Please?




Well, the Final Four is set and the showdown in San Antonio will begin on Saturday. My Final Four predictions almost came true, with the Memphis Tigers creating my only error in selecting the semi-finalists. I really didn't think that the Tigers had it in them, but they have proven in a convincing matter that they are a force to be reckoned with in the tournament and have played their way to a match-up with UCLA that will be a game for the books. The Kansas/Carolina match-up on the other side will be a great game as well, but I can't wait to see the run-and-gun Tigers against what is arguably the nation's top defensive unit. Memphis proved me wrong in fine style, nailing their free-throws time and again, with a made percentage that has flirted with 75-80 all tournament. Their victory over Texas was probably the most impressive win of the tournament thus far and while I was proven wrong, you can't blame me for picking at least one non-No.1 seed to advance to the Final Four. This year's group of four is composed entirely of the top seeds from each region, something that has never happened in tournament history. It makes for what should be an amazing weekend in San Antonio.

The other games over the weekend that left us with this truly elite Final Four were competitive and captivating, with Davidson's near victory over Kansas and Louisville's tough play against the Tar Heels creating more than enough drama in what has been a sort of lackluster tournament as far as the excitement level is concerned. I wanted more upsets, more last-second buzzer beaters and more coaches pulling their hair out, so the fact that the Final Four is made up of what have been the best teams in the country nearly all season is a welcome gift indeed. I over-estimated what Tennessee was capable of and while I thought Louisville was indeed as good as they played, I knew that a victory over UNC in their home state of North Carolina would probably be too daunting a task for Pitino and the Cards.

Speaking of that game, I watched it with a bar full of Louisville fans (which was a rare event for this native of the football obsessed state of Ohio). It was great to be swept up in that level of excitement about a tournament game and while their cherished Cardinals fell short, the fans in attendance never gave up on their squad. The guy I watched the game with marveled at what Tyler Hansbrough can do when motivated (which is always by the way, the kid has a motor that won't quit) and I was equally impressed with the sheer speed of the Carolina attack. They had the ball back down to their end after Louisville makes and misses with a quickness that rivaled the time it took to take a sip of my drink. I'd look down at the straw after a make, and the Tar Heels were already laying it in at the other end when I looked back at the screen. Their match-up with the hyper-athletic Kansas Jayhawks will be entertaining at the least and trying on the nerves without a doubt.

Kansas made the Final Four with their win over Davidson, which was too close for comfort if you picked them to win it all like I did. A lot of fingernail chewing and pacing in my apartment ended with a lob at the rim that I think even Stephen Curry was surprised he didn't take. The Kansas D blanketed Davidson's sophomore phenom in the final seconds and should be commended for escaping that game with a win. Their victory was only a little less impressive than Memphis over Texas, because a surging team in the tournament is always a difficult opponent. I know, I know, Davidson shouldn't even have been in that game if Kansas is as good as I think they are, but ask Georgetown and Wisconsin what can happen when a non-power conference squad gains a little confidence and features a shooter in Curry who probably thinks he can make any shot on the floor. Props to Curry on the non-Hansbrough performance of the tournament as he led Davidson on a magical run through to the Elite Eight. My buddy Jeff messaged me about that beautiful shot he had against Wisconsin in the Sweet Sixteen, where he let a leaping Badger fly by and calmly nailed a triple that pretty much sealed the game. I have to agree with Jeff that it was an incredible play and Wisconsin simply couldn't compete with Curry (let alone the other four Wildcats on the floor) for nearly the entirety of that contest.

We will see by the end of Saturday if my predictions hold but I can't wait to watch this historic match-up of all No.1 Seeds unfold.


Opening Day. Such a beautiful pairing of words. I discussed the giddy feeling that spring training filled me with a couple of posts back and baseball's official reign over summer started yesterday with games across the country. I mentioned previously my affinity for the game and how I think it is the most graceful sport with the most difficult tasks (for example, hitting a round ball with a round bat at 90-plus MPH). The beginning of its season is always a spot of joy in April (or I guess March nowadays) and I can't wait to watch my beloved Detroit Tigers and the rest of baseball's best go at it for another 160 odd games or so.

I happened to see my friend Chip a week or so ago when he was in town visiting and he made the argument that while baseball is a difficult game, returning a tennis serve at over 150 MPH (like the ones Andy Roddick can uncork on opponents) is an equally formidable task. I agreed with him, but I am a stubborn jerk if anything and while I take his point, I will maintain my own opinion on the matter. Another point he brought up however, I took to heart to a greater extent. He mentioned my obvious gaffe in overlooking Roger Federer when I was discussing Tiger Woods' dominance in the sporting world. The adoration that my father and I both laid at Tiger's feet could easily be given to Federer as well and while he may not be as close to Tiger in the race for "best ever" in his sport, he is currently an equally dominating force in his lane. Federer is on exactly the same path that Tiger is as far as records in his sport are concerned, but he will have to best Rafael Nadal on clay for me to put him neck and neck with Tiger in the dominance category. Thanks for the insight Chip and I hope to renew the aruguments when we are not surrounded by a barrage of laser-lights and dance music that I can't really get into.