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NBA Free Agency and the Pursuit of Happiness

in Having an Opinion/HOOPS by
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There has been a lot of talk about this word “legacy” recently.

Reggie Miller, the former Indiana Pacers guard and current TNT NBA analyst, takes great pride in having played for a single franchise, 18 seasons in total.

Miller this week wrote for the Bleacher Report regarding Kevin Durant’s motivation and decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder (Small Market) for the Golden State Warriors (middle-market, crossing over to a broader geographic market).

Miller wrote, “At the end of the day, what’s more important, rings or legacy? The media only cares about rings, and rightfully so. We are judged on jewelry, so that’s why I can’t argue with it. From a personal standpoint, I’m upset that a small market will never recover from it.”

Miller continues, “That’s what Durant gave up by leaving the Thunder. And that matters. Had he stayed in Oklahoma City, people would have said, “He spurned all the other offers and continued to fight the giant.”

Now Durant is a part of the giant.

Miller may be right Kevin Durant did give up a proverbial first-born status in Oklahoma City for the proverbial bowl of soup in Cali.

Simply, he was bored in OKC and felt like Golden State with the allures of the Bay Area, the winning, the hype, a change of scenery would be good, rather than staying in the same place.

Lots of people get burt out on their jobs, lots, and they move to a competitor in the same industry to get a breathe of fresh life and energy into their life.

That’s probably what Durant did.  We’ll see if it brings Durant peace or regret.

Reggie Miller: Kevin Durant Traded a Sacred Legacy for Cheap Jewelry

Comments, Feedback? E-mail Digital Sports Daily editor Travis Duncan editor@digitalsportsdaily.com

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Jordan Spieth will recover quicker than you think

in Golf/Having an Opinion/Trending by
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—After giving up the lead on the back nine on a sunny afternoon at Augusta, some people might have confused Jordan Spieth with legends of times past, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and others who have won, then lost in dramatic fashion.

So anxious are we to call something a choke job that isn’t.

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The list of players who have led headed into the back nine of a major golf tournament goes on further than the longest par 5 at Augusta. And no doubt there is pressure that can and will affect even the coolest pro golfer’s play. It’s easier to play from behind.

Spieth got a bad bounce on the 12th hole when his tee shot landed in the drink. A bad bounce is not a choke. A choke is a series of repeatable easy, routine shots or swings that go wrong.

Fortunately for us, Spieth is not one of those guys who will dwell on this forever.

And I don’t think he has the pressure of those gentlemen listed in the same breath. Not yet. He’s still new enough. We’re waiting to see what he’ll accomplish.

If for instance we compare Spieth to Woods, the first similarity is they are both highly competitive. Thus, both golfers are prone to the downer-let downs of losing. However, Woods is a sheer competitor and his adrenaline fuels his skill, whereas Spieth is a craftsman and artist (especially around the greens) and thus his skills and craft fuel his competitive spirit. That’s not to say Tiger is not as skilled or more skilled than anyone to play the game. He’s won a lot more than Spieth. But Spieth’s approach would lend its self to a quicker and more stable equilibrium. And I still think Tiger’s the greatest of his generation and right up there with Nicklaus.

And as Spieth placed the Green Jacket on Danny he did so with the kind of sportsmanship and losing in grace that guys like Jack Nicklaus would admire.

Here’s what Jack Nicklaus wrote Sunday night, and posted on his official Twitter account:

“I think the whole golfing world feels for Jordan Spieth. He had a chance to do something truly special and something very few have done before—and be the youngest to accomplish that—and he just didn’t pull through. My heart goes out to him for what happened, but I know that Jordan is a young man who will certainly learn from this experience and there will be some good that comes out of this for him. He’s a wonderful talent and a wonderful young man.”

You could of course see the heartbreak, but don’t worry the kid is young oh so young and the good news for golf fans and Spieth himself there’s still a lot of golf yet to be played. 

 

In the Swan Song of his Career: Kobe’s Final Week

in Having an Opinion/HOOPS by
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It wasn’t us who made Kobe Bryant larger than life was it?

He is as big as stars come.

But as large as the shadow that his athletic excellence casts, over the deeper man, there is just as much human pain and joy to observe.

There are seven days left in Kobe Bryant’s career. It will conclude Wednesday April 13th in Los Angeles. We, the collective sports onlookers, assume this will be Kobe’s last appearance on an NBA court professionally.

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Bryant’s physical breakdown has been obvious. Against the Miami Heat seven days ago, two weeks before his final game, he played nine minutes before telling Lakers coach Bryon Scott he couldn’t move. Whereafter ice packs were wrapped around his two knees and left shoulder.

The “take me out coach” does not remind us of the man he replaced. Michael Jordan’s physical decline was not as obvious. Jordan still had some left in the tank when he returned for two final seasons with the Washington Wizards at the age of 38. Kobe Bean Bryant is 37 years old and will be 38 at the conclusion of the summer. He played his first NBA regular season game on November 3rd, 1996. He was 18 years old, 18 years and 72 days young.

Even in his first games in the preseason of 1996 there was no question even then that he was going to be a superstar and a legend. Not like the youngsters today, bless them, it wasn’t and isn’t even the same. No one has ever burst onto the scene like Bryant.

 

Kobe was born in 1978 in Philadelphia. He would spend a lot of time as a kid in Italy where his father played basketball professionally, but by the time he was 17 he was a Laker.

Seven years later, Bryant would be accused of  raping a nineteen-year-old woman July 1st 2003.

Here’s how he views the situation looking back some 12 years later:

Via GQ Magazine March 2016 :

“I started to consider the mortality of what I was doing,” he says. At the time, he was 24. “What’s important? What’s not important? What does it mean when everybody loves you, and then everybody hates your guts for something they think you did? So that’s when I decided that — if people were going to like me or not like me — it was going to be for who I actually was. To hell with all that plain vanilla [expletive], just to get endorsement deals. Those are superficial, anyway. I don’t enjoy doing them, anyway. I’ll just show people who I actually am…. The [loss of the] endorsements were really the least of my concerns. Was I afraid of going to jail? Yes. It was twenty-five to life, man. I was terrified. The one thing that really helped me during that process — I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic, my kids are Catholic — was talking to a priest. It was actually kind of funny: He looks at me and says, ‘Did you do it?’ And I say, ‘Of course not.’ Then he asks, ‘Do you have a good lawyer?’ And I’m like, ‘Uh, yeah, he’s phenomenal.’ So then he just said, ‘Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now. This is something you can’t control. So let it go.’ And that was the turning point.”

It would take six years for Kobe Bryant to win another NBA title after winning three straight from the summer of 2000 to the summer of 2002.

In 2009 Kobe and the Lakers defeated Orlando for the title, and then in 2010, Kobe’s last title, which he calls the most important, the Lakers defeated the Celtics four games to three and Kobe has spent the last six years not without success but without a return to the finals. A so at that point the longer swang song began.

Though he is regarded as a selfish offensive player, he does rank 29th on the NBA’s assist list all-time with over 6,200. But if points were all that mattered he is third-behind Kareem and Karl Malone with over 33,000 NBA points scored.

And perhaps the most mystifying stat of them all: Kobe ranks 16th All-Time in terms of league MVP’s with a single MVP award coming in 2008. M.J. for who he is the heir apparent to, has five.

When asked recently in an ESPN interview why that happened he answered succinctly, “because the media votes on it.”

He continued, “It was never a mission of mine to win a lot of MVPs. It was to win a lot of championships. With that being said, does it bother me? Yeah, it bothers me. Of course it bothers me.”

In the coming weeks, Kobe will be celebrated. The youngsters in the league who were literally five or six when Kobe first one a championship and literally were not even born when Kobe started playing will forever idolize Kobe and after games, it’s a race, to see who can get to Kobe first for a snapshot, an autographed, maybe even a pair of his shoes.

But the larger public, it must break his heart, the effort and the intensity that he played with, and the sheer ability, that he won’t be as lauded by the fans. The media will give him his due next week. But it’s feel will not be like Peyton Manning, though with allegations from years past also against Manning, the similarities between the two are striking. Perhaps the public does not feel Kobe paid the price. Although, Kobe is a changed man he would say.

And despite the allegations in Colorado, and the much, much, less painfully allegations that he didn’t share the ball, didn’t get along with teammates and didn’t tolerate lack of effort. There is a respect for Kobe. There is much respect for the man and the person inside the NBA.

But in Kobe’s final week, sadly will be like many others, without the glory and the exhilaration as years’ past. But somewhere it appears that there is peace for Bryant and some happiness as competition’s glory has faded.

 

When baseball comes to Cuba, no one is quite sure why each other is there

in Having an Opinion/Yardwork by
Cuba

 

—Perhaps it was more of a promotional event than a baseball game.

That wouldn’t be too far off center from the roots of exhibition baseball. Gone are the days of barnstorming where games were played merely for entertainment, promotional and financial reasons. No you won’t see Mike Trout and his buddies travel across the U.S. anytime soon to take on your American legion to fill the stands of your municipal stadium for $5 a head.

But you did, or a lot of people did, see the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Cuba National baseball team in Havana on Monday in front of 55,000 onlookers and a worldwide TV audience via ESPN and ESPN Deportes and it’s many distribution methods across the globe.

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And it could have been really big except it wasn’t it was a Monday that left an empty used feeling in the hearts of many baseball fans so eager to push the winter season behind us and think and enjoy baseball.

ESPN was there to cover a major historical event right, after all it has been nearly 100 years since a U.S. president has stepped foot in Cuba. Or was it there to promote its upcoming coverage of the major league baseball season and to fill editorial space across its vast platforms during a relative lull in the action in between the end of the second round of the NCAA tournament and the sweet 16 and the NFL draft and the NHL and NBA playoffs it was a Monday and it made headlines.

ESPN’s own Dan LeBatard seized on the opportunity to make it personal and say the trip meant nothing as far as political change. Putting on his hat as Miami Herald columnist LeBatard wrote that essentially a lot of people involved missed the point or simply haven’t experienced the pain associated with the political problem, “So much happy coverage on the television this week. Historic visit! America and Baseball celebrating themselves. Obama and Jeter and ESPN head toward communism like it is another cruise port, so many symbols of Americana descending on a rotting island stuck in the 1950s, and it doesn’t feel quite right back in Miami, like watching a funeral morph into a party. The history of my own people feels like it is either being ignored or trampled here, and I’m not quite sure which of those feels worse.”

And at its root, it was a baseball game between the Tampa Rays and the Cuban national team, which for baseball fans doesn’t count in the win-loss standings and quite frankly, have many of us baseball fans confused as to what it was all about. That’s not to say it wasn’t about something, it just didn’t seem to be about what we were used to.

Was it a diplomatic voyage by President Obama and if so, why did he pick a baseball game?

That he actually answered when he said in part, “It can change attitudes sometimes in ways that a politician can never change, that a speech can’t change.”

He continued, “all of those kids who started growing up watching the Brooklyn Dodgers, suddenly they’re rooting for a black man on the field and how that affects their attitudes laying the groundwork for the civil rights movement that’s a legacy that all of us have benefited from, black and white and Latino and Asian.”

And as we lean back into our recliners turn on our high def TVs and prepare our hearts and minds for lazy evenings with the national pastime, and reach into your proverbial bag of potatoe chips we might think, what’s the deal with Cuba anyhow?  Am I supposed to know about this, or can I go back to ranking the top 5 first basemen for my fantasy draft?

Speaking of potato chips, the Rays seemed excited to be participants in th whole affair and the game, but not so much excited as you might expect after a travel delay put them on the airport tarmac for close to nine hours. De facto team social media spokesman, pitcher Chris Archer clued us in while the boys waited.

Many of us had to reach back into our history classes and try to remember exactly was it the Bay of Pigs or the missile crisis that got us to Monday when the Rays defeated Cuba 4-1 in 9 innings under the sun light in Havana with 55,000 Cubans peering and millions others watching via ESPN and ESPN Deportes.

The political and the sport can never miss each other. Sometimes they rub shoulders. Sometimes they collide. But they don’t miss each other.

The one question many had, and I think LeBatard had as well, was why did ESPN make such a big deal regarding the game. Was it the natural consequence of a lull in the schedule and an opportunity to use its teeth to cover a more interesting aspect of sports? Or was it 40 something producers and decision makers who back the last time major league baseball was in Cuba March 28th 1999 had delightful memories and knew we needed to make a big deal out of this event.

The general consensus of the matter seems to be it was all contrived and there were so many non-baseball agendas it was confusing as to what really was the true purpose of the game.

Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal wrote under the headline, “In Havana, Nine Innings of Carefully Staged Baseball.”

There was an element of stagecraft to it all, since the Cuban government controlled ticket distribution for the game. When Rays outfielder and Cuban defector Dayron Varona stepped to the plate in the first inning, he was met with only tepid applause. But genuine moments abounded.”

Meanwhile, many a baseball fans, including myself missed the sidenote that the President announced just a week prior that travel restrictions disallowing U.S. citizens travel to Cuba have been lifted. As one press report put it a “Cuban vacation is within reach for millions of Americans. ”

So while the Rays and Cuba National were trying to get the most guys across home plate in nine innings, the rest of us were dusting off the mental books shelves of our mind trying to just remember exactly “Cuba-United States” “Rays-Cuba” what’s the deal here?

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In appreciation of the Splash Brothers

in Having an Opinion by
credit: cc commons

I’ve done some research for this article/post/blog/piece.

I have been shooting baskets in earnest for the last 2 weeks at my local gym.

Swish swish swish, I mean I’m getting really good. I just pretend i’m Steph or Klay and boom I can really make them. I even pretend I’m on the fast break and them boom before the defense knows it-spot on three.

Then I moved to the other end of the court. Rim seems a little different, a lot harder. Net is a little shorter. And in the background I can see all the gym members walking to their various destinations. My shooting percentage goes from 90ish to sometime like 20ish…

The point is

That any joe blow given enough time and training can become a basketball shooter and have some good sucess. Shooting hoops is fun and I encourage it-after a stressful day of work. But to shoot hoops in an empty gym compared to shooting against the best players in the world trying to face gaurd you is quite another thing, and that’s exactly what Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson do game after game-and its amazing. It doesn’t matter from what distance or who is in their face, swish and when the ball goes in its “Pure” as Gus Johnson would say. Very Pure.

January 23rd 2015-vs Sacramento-No better example of the pure skill of Klay Thompson. Thompson set an NBA record with 37 points in the third quarter and an additional NBA record nine three-pointers in the third quarter as well.

The Splash Brothers have combined to hit a total of 1,742 threes in their NBA careers.

And as was announced earlier this week. Klay and Stephen will compete in the All-Star three point contest Sat. Feb. 14th. And for perhaps the first time in NBA History more attention will be given to the three-point contest than the slam dunk contest. If you love shooting this will be a grand feast to devour.

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