Monday, February 27, 2012

Kevin Love 2012 3-Point Shootout Champion

Is there anything he can't do?  Just when the 2-time NBA Allstar couldn't surprise me more since he's become universally regarded as the best power forward in the game today, he then goes out and wins the 3-point contest over Kevin Durant in the final round, as well as over last season's champ, James Jones.  It took him two tie breaker rounds to do it as well.

Kevin Love's just the 2nd UCLA alumnus to win it after Jason Kapono.  Kapono did it in consecutive years, 2007 and 2008, and tied the record for most points ever in a single round when he scored 25 points in the final round.  I'm a little surprised sharpshooting Reggie Miller never won it in any of his 5 attempts.

Kevin's most memorable moment this season was probably his buzzer-beating 3 pointer vs the Clippers on January 20th.  But, he hasn't even been shooting close to his career high in 3 point percentage this season at just under 35% percent.  At least last year, he was nearly at 42%.  Kevin has also been attempting more long range shots this year as well.  So far he's attempted 4.4 three-pointers per game (141 attempts in 32 games) while he finished with just 2.9 attempts per game last season (211 in 73 games).

Consequently, he's finishing with 1.2 rebounds less a game even though he's playing over 4 minutes more each night than last year.  I hope he isn't trying to focus on his outside game at the detriment of his inside production.  That said, he's averaging a career-high in points this year, up to 25 ppg (last season: 20.2 ppg) after shedding 25 pounds in the offseason, so what do I know?  Go Bruins.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jeremy Lin's 2nd Sports Illustrated Cover (in 2 weeks)

 

So much better than his first cover, if you ask me.  Sure, it was awesome to see him being quintuple-teamed by the Lakers in perhaps the best game of his career (Lin 38 points - Kobe 34 points on national TV in MSG, in case you've forgotten), but who wants to share the cover with Kobe and the Kobettes?  yuck.  Jeremy should be featured alone.  Great job SI.

By the way, the report is that he is only the 3rd individual that's been featured on the cover of SI on consecutive weeks.  Nowitzki made it during and after the NBA Finals last year and Jordan has 3-peated on the cover two different times, as he deserves.  I must say though that the first Nowitzki issue was actually a shared feature between he and Dwyane Wade.  Jeremy has been the lone focus in both his covers.  And he hasn't even played in the postseason yet.  That is the draw of Linsanity.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Landon Donovan's 2nd Everton Stint


With Clint Dempsey's assault on the goalscoring record books (Fulham's and US') in EPL play this year, it would be easy to overlook Landon's outstanding play in the 9 games he's had with Everton on loan.  Though he didn't score this time around (2 goals back in 2010), he still contributed 6 assists (compared to 4 assists in 2010 in 13 games) and was awarded Everton's January Player of the Month.  It is no small thing to be able to seamlessly fit right into the EPL league, a physical style for which many would think Landon's small frame and skill set is not particularly suited for, not just once but twice.

Though the club hasn't been nearly as successful this time around, Landon was clearly the standout performer on the team.  His accurate passing, especially in the final 3rd (interesting considering the US' struggles in that very area) were hugely important in securing valuable points for the struggling EPL side.  In those 9 games, Everton scored 11 goals, 6 of which were from Landon assists.  The 3 standout games this time around include the assist which salvaged a point vs Aston Villa, one that beat Manchester City and another in the 2-0 defeat of Chelsea, which was also his last game.

However, perhaps the most memorable for Americans was the FA Cup matchup vs Dempsey's Fulham club.  Both goals in Everton's 2-1 win came from Landon assists while Dempsey was mostly ineffective on the night.  It was a big win for Landon since the hype had been (and hopefully continues to be) all about Dempsey's awesome season.  Ultimately, that game served to remind us all that Landon still has something incredibly valuable to offer the US squad - an attacking presence on the right flank.


Too often in the past, we've asked Landon to be the do-it-all man in the offense.  I think it is obvious now that his best place is a clear, unhindered attacking role on the right, opposite of Brek Shea where a starter has not emerged in Klinsmann camps.  His ability to cross, execute clever through-balls, and exert pressure with his pace will be maximized there.  Brilliantly, Everton doesn't ask him to do more than that, and neither should we.  The results speak for themselves.

As for his time with Everton, I personally wish he could have stayed there for the remainder of this year and perhaps another.  He has nothing more to prove in the MLS.  It would quiet the skeptics about his legacy and escalate US Soccer on the international stage that much more.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jeremy hits first NBA gamewinner!


In another chapter of the surreal Jeremy Lin saga, he hit his first NBA gamewinner last night - a 3 pointer with 0.5 seconds left - to continue the Knicks' 6 game winning streak since he's began playing major minutes on Feb 4th.  He finished with 27 points and 11 assists, the second double-double of his career.

With Steve Nash comparisons inevitably flying around, the fact is that Jeremy's been much more of a scorer, posting the most points (136) by a player in his first 5 starts since the NBA merger in '75.  Though it is also true that most on the list, like Shaq (129), were playing their first 5 NBA games (not just starts), it is still an absolutely ridiculous and unexpected statistic for Jeremy.  Even had he been born African American and was a first round pick out of UCLA, it still would've been an incredible accomplishment, much less a Chinese American who was undrafted out of Harvard.

The other comparison is of course Tim Tebow, but we all know that the controversy surrounding Tebow is that he doesn't put up the requisite numbers (namely completion percentage) to be considered a bonafide starter.  Jeremy has been an allstar NBA player for 6 games by any measure and by any definition.  He's scored 25, 28, 23, 38, 20 and now 27 points during this winning streak.  Assists?  7, 8, 10, 7, 8, 11.  (Hmm, I'm going to guess he gets 7 assists tonight.)  Shooting percentage?  59/117, 50.4%.  And now, he's got his clutch Tebow moment.

Jeremy scored 12 of his 27 points in the 4th quarter, in which the Knicks started down 9 points.  With 1 minute left and now down 3, Jeremy drove it in, got fouled and completed the 3 point play.  Tie game.  Next possession, after a Chandler offensive rebound, Jeremy called for an iso, dribbled out the clock, noticed Calderon playing too far off, and drilled the 3 from straight away.  Clutch.  It was an enrapturous sports moment.

Had Jeremy not hit that 3, he would've been lambasted for being badly outplayed by Calderon, who got the bulk of his own 25 points against Jeremy early on.  But with the 3 pointer, all is forgiven - and Jeremy even finished with 2 more points than Calderon.

By the way, he's also got 30 turnovers in his first 5 starts, also an NBA record.  But hey, when D'Antoni puts the ball in your hands all game and asks you to make it happen just about every single possession, turnovers will happen too.  He also missed way too many FTs down the stretch.  But, W's are all that matter.

Calipari made a couple good points on the Dan Patrick show this morning.  He said Jeremy was absolutely ready when the unexpected opportunity arose.  After a disheartening rookie year at Golden State where he probably felt more like a mascot than player, Jeremy went to work in the offseason and clearly got better.  So even when he was cut twice by two teams and sent to the NBDL to start this season, when D'Antoni gave him a real chance, he blew the doors off the joint.

Secondly, Calipari commented that had Jeremy not played for D'Antoni, where endless pick-and-rolls are encouraged, we might not ever know how good Jeremy really is.  So not only was he ready, he was positioned in the perfect place for this kind of success.  The offense, the teammates, the city, the timing - it's all been absolutely perfect for him.

Obviously things will change when Carmelo comes back.  Melo will need to be the top scorer, take the most shots and be the focal point of the offense.  Jeremy won't be attempting the game-winners anymore.  But who can predict what happens next these days?  We're just enjoying Linsanity while it lasts.

Jeremy Lin: Sports Illustrated Cover


The first of many?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lin-credible

The fact that his story has grabbed the attention of the country is just remarkable.  His popularity seems due to a perfect storm of underdog circumstances and solid character traits.  He's a Chinese-American guard in a decidedly non-Asian profession.  He went undrafted after a 4 year career at Harvard, a school obviously not known for bball.  He had been waived by two teams, including his hometown team, and sent to the NBDL four times in 2 years.  He had only scored in the double digits twice before Feb 4th.  He is the anti-typical American superstar primadonna, instead always displaying self-deflecting humility.  He is a committed Christian, giving Tebow fans another hero.  And it happened to him at a success-starved team in the nation's largest sports market.  Besides, regardless of his ethnicity, background, or personality, his meteoric performance out of nowhere would've been a huge story in itself.  He may end up being the most dramatic rags-to-riches story in NBA history.  (Kurt Warner's rise from grocery store shelf stocker to Superbowl MVP probably rates as #1 in sports history).  This is why I love sports.

He isn't another Yao - a commie-bred basketball-playing machine (for the record, I love Yao).  No, he's a son of a hard-working immigrant chasing the American dream and the best possible future.  He's one of us.

So how will it all pan out?  I have no clue.  Will he be averaging 28 points a night, dropping 38 every few weeks on primetime TV, becoming the next superstar guard?  The stat listed below is indeed astounding.  But I doubt it.  We don't even know what will happen when Carmelo comes back.  I'd be absolutely ecstatic if he held a starting job and had 16 points and 8 assists a night over the course of a decade-long career.  I can barely wrap my mind around what he did to Kobe last Friday, much less entertain an overnight transformation into NBA superstar.  No, I'll stick with my more modest prediction.  However, with the Chinese voting block likely out en mass for the NBA All-Star game next year, I'd be surprised if he wasn't an All-Star starter, assuming he keeps his Knick starting job.

- The only player in history with at least 20 points and 7 assists in his first 4 starts.

- Most points in their 1st 4 starts in modern day NBA (1976 on):
Jeremy Lin 109
Allen Iverson 101
Shaquille O'Neal 100
Michael Jordan 99

Look at those names.  Lincredible.

Phil destroys Tiger for 40th win

Mickelson overcame a 6 shot deficit starting the final day - the largest comeback of his career - to win his 40th PGA Tour victory.  This was Phil's 4th Pebble Beach title, but none was more spectacular as he blew everyone away with a final round 8-under 64, the best on the day by 3 shots.  He had 6 birdies, 1 eagle (thanks to Tony Romo's line) and no bogeys.

It was even sweeter since he was paired with Tiger, who had a 2 shot advantage over Phil to start with and lost by 9.  With the world anticipating a win, Tiger was just 1 shot off the lead at the 6th hole, but then completely collapsed, posting 5 bogeys on the day, including 3 in a row on holes 7-9.  He shot an embarrassing 75 and worse yet, missed 5 putts under 5 feet.

Since 2007, this is the 5th consecutive time that Tiger got beat head-to-head with Phil when paired in the same group on the final day.  The best part was the obvious support and affection between Phil and his wife after yet another emotional win, as Tiger could only bear witness, alone.  Serves him right.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Jeremy Lin, 38 points, Laker slayer.


Is this for real?  Did Jeremy Lin just outplay Kobe Bryant on the biggest stage - on primetime TV, in Madison Square Garden, after nonstop hype with a giant target on his back?

Yes.

Knicks 92 - Lakers 85

Jeremy: 38 points (13-23), 7 assists, 4 rebounds

Kobe: 34 points (11-29), 1 assist, 10 rebounds


LEGIT.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Linsanity!


In 2010, I posted 3 times about Jeremy Lin - his NBA debut, his first points and non-garbage NBA minutes, and the moment he became the best Asian-American to ever play in the NBA (career-high 13 points).

Those milestones may be most significant only to the player himself, but this week, Jeremy has become the top story in the NBA.  In fact, you could argue that post-Superbowl, he is the biggest story in all of American sports.  After his first extraordinary performance on Sat, I didn't get around to posting on SB Sunday.  Then he set his career-high on Monday on his first start and set another mark with his first double-double last night.  Once he's lucky, twice he's good, thrice he's a legit NBA starter.

Feb 4 - 99-92 vs Nets
Jeremy played a team high 36 minutes off the bench, scored 25 points on a team-high 19 attempts (10 made), had a team-high 7 assists, grabbed 5 rebounds, and 2 steals.  I'm not sure what's more impressive: that he only committed 1 turnover or that he outplayed perennial All-star Deron Williams down the stretch for the win.  Significantly, Carmelo and Stoudemire both played big minutes as well but there was room for Jeremy to do his thing.

Feb 6 -  99-88 vs Jazz
In his first career start, Jeremy logged an incredible 45 minutes and scored a career-high 28 points on 10-17 shooting.  On a night when Carmelo was lost to injury early on, Jeremy picked up the slack and lead the Knicks to a win over a Jazz team with a winning record.  He also had 8 assists but fatigue clearly caused his 8 2nd half turnovers.  Coach D'Antoni joked that he was riding Lin like "freakin' Secretariat".  Also memorable was that the rabid Knicks fans were chanting M-V-P for Lin after the game.


Feb 8 -  107-93 vs Wizards
Jeremy had his first double-double on his 2nd start, finishing with 23 points and 10 assists.  He shot well, 9-14, grabbed 4 rebounds and only had 2 turnovers.  Reminiscent of summer league play in 2010, he was matched up once again with John Wall and more than held his own, as evidenced by his late 3rd quarter crossover and throwdown (apparently his first NBA dunk).  This was the 2nd win that Jeremy lead his team to without Carmelo or Stoudemire.  Good thing too, since his 780k contract wasn't guaranteed until this last waiver day had passed.  It was big news that he's been sleeping on his older brother's couch in Manhattan.

- The Knicks had been 2-11 in their last 13 games before these 3 games and this 3 game streak is the longest they've had this season since early January.

- In his first 9 games this season, he totaled 32 points.  In 29 games last season, he had 76 points, which is the same total he's put up in just these 3 games.

Can he keep it up?  Hopefully against the Lakers on Friday, he will.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Superbowl XLVI: Giants > Patsies, Montana still > Brady

I despise these Belicheat/Brady Patriots.  No, I didn't want to see a close game yesterday.  I didn't even care if it was a good game or not, even though good games generally make for better Superbowl parties which of course we hosted again.  I wanted to see a Giant beatdown.  I wanted to see Belicheat completely get outcoached and outsmarted.  I wanted to see Brady battered and sacked into submission.  This one felt personal.  But I guess a last-minute gut-wrenching loss at the hands of the same team that destroyed their perfect season 4 years ago will have to do.  My hatred (sports hatred, not real hatred, mind you - meaning I don't want Brady to die in a fire, I just want him to lose every game for the rest of his career - glad we got that cleared up) for the Patriots really started in the Superbowl back in 2002.

Reasons why I was happy to see a 49ers rival win their 4th Superbowl:

- Belicheat cheated Kurt Warner in that Superbowl for his first championship.  10 years ago, I was just mad that Warner was deprived of his 2nd ring (which is also one of the reasons the Steelers are on my dislike list, others include Big Ben's behavior toward women and the fact they have more SBs than the 49ers).  Years later, we found out that Belicheat cheated his way to the win by illegally videotaping a Rams' walkthrough practice prior to the game.

You think that isn't worth 3 points?  I'm tired of people saying that it wouldn't really have helped.  Wouldn't have helped?  It's like all those defenders of baseball that said steroids wouldn't really help someone hit a home run.  Really?  Why would someone go through the trouble of systematically doing something illegal year after year, if it didn't help?  Experts say that knowing a defense's signals is a huge advantage for the opponent.  Belicheat starting illegally videotaping from 2000 all the way until he got caught early in the 2007 season (Spygate).  Then at that end of that very season, the Belicheat happened to lose his first Superbowl.  In fact, pre-Spygate, they were 12-2 in the postseason.  Post-Spygate, including 2007's postseason, they've only been 4-4.  Pre-Spygate, 3-0 in the Superbowl.  Post-Spygate: 0-2.  So yeah.  The cheating helped.

- As Peter King said, this was the contest between Peyton's little brother and Peyton's arch-nemsis in the house that Peyton built.  Brady and Belicheat had had Peyton's number pretty much until around Spygate came out.  Would Brady win his first untainted championship ring in Peyton's own city?  It was fitting that a Manning took him down.

- Brady dumped his respectable actress girlfriend, eventually the mother of his first child, and settled with a supermodel.  He is definitely going in the right direction.  Gisele of course garners plenty of respect in the Boston area for being one of them.  And publicly throwing Patriot receivers under the bus yesterday will definitely endear her to fans even more.  Would Peyton's or Eli's wife do that?

- Brady  is equivalent of the Kobe or A-Rod in the NFL.  Good?  Yeah, pretty darn good.  Arrogant and unlikeable?  None more so than Brady, with his smug and condescending attitude.  Who would play for Boston but walk around in a Yankees cap?  He couldn't care less.  He'll be up 4 touchdowns in the 4th quarter of a regular season game and Belicheat will still have him air it out into the endzone.  Then Brady will still fist pump and scream when he scores - just classless.  He'll grow out his hair metro-style and gallivant around the beaches of the globe with his supermodel wife.  A celebrity-chasing jerk?  Nah, just not my kind of guy.

- I'm tired of hearing people say he's better than Montana.  He's not even better than Peyton, as attested to by 13 of 15 HOF QBs in 2009.  Had he "won" his 4th Superbowl title, he'd be tied with Montana and Bradshaw in SB wins and there's little doubt that ESPN would have immnediately anointed him Greatest of All Time.  That would be absolutely unacceptable.  Now, he is the Kobe to Jordan.  Pretty great, but lost TWICE in the championship.  Jordan won 6 times in 6 tries.  Montana won 4 in 4.  Brady?  0-2 since Spygate, 7 years since his last title.  Is he even better than Eli Manning now?  Nope, and certainly not more clutch.  Montana will always have that John Taylor drive for the win, while Brady's championships were all secured on the strength of Vinatieri's leg.  By the way, how great is he if his team went 11-5 the season he was out?  Peyton's team went 2-14 in his absence.  Anyway, couldn't be happier today.



As for the game itself, it really was a strange one wasn't it?  Random thoughts:

- Peyton was a standup guy for not showing himself at all.  It was an honorable thing to do and it shows his devotion to his brother and also to the game.  If I was betting the prop bet, I would've guessed he'd be on TV 7-8 times at least.

- All my logic pointed to the Giants winning because of their superior defense.  But I figured that Belicheat and Brady wouldn't lose a revenge game like this and would somehow pull out a last minute fg - again the only way Brady wins his Superbowls - to clinch it.  When NE went up 17-9 early in the 3rd, I thought it was over.

- Giants went on a 9-0 run, Patriots went on a 17-0 run, then Giants finished it with a 12-0 run.  Who would have thought that Brady wouldn't be able to score another single point starting with 11:20 left in the 3rd quarter?

- The NY D-line wasn't nearly as dominant as I thought they had to be to win this game.  But a banged up Gronkowski along with a giant 1st down drop by Welker (on an slightly overthrown ball by Brady) on the 20 yard line, which would have secured at least 3 points and forced the Giants to burn their timeouts, made up the difference.

- Quirky plays all went NY's way.  Giants' 3 fumbles by Cruz, Bradshaw and Nicks all somehow stayed in NY's possession (12 men defending on Cruz's play).  Brady's intentional grounding to the middle of the field was awesome.

- Bradshaw said that nobody specifically told him to kneel down at the 1 until Eli told him while he was in the act of handing off the ball.  It will probably the only time in our lives that we'll ever see the defense celebrate losing the SB lead with less than a minute left.  "We just gave up our 2 point lead and will need a TD drive with 57 seconds left and just 1 timeout to win!  Yeah!".  It was comical to see some guys on the Giants offense almost exasperated by Bradshaw slowly falling into the endzone.  "No!  We just took a 4 point lead in the SB!  Ahhh!".    I understand the logic of kneeling the ball but if they really wanted to do that, Eli should have just knelt 3 times to setup the FG.

If it were me, I'd have made sure Bradshaw knew to kneel at the 1.  Make NE use their last timeout, then take two tries to barrel into the endzone.  We've all seen missed snaps, dropped holds, hooked or pushed kicks.  Think Ravens 2 weeks ago.  Who knows what will happen on a theoretically easy play in the pressure of a SB?  No, I'd rather use brute force.  I'd rather have the 4 point lead and dare Brady, without any deep threats on his team, to march down to win it.  Of course, had he done it, it would have elevated his legend to heights that would have made me puke.  I wouldn't have been able to watch TV or get online for weeks.

- Is Eli Manning better than his brother?  Peyton is probably the greatest regular season QB in history.  However, with guys like Rodgers and Brees assaulting the record books this season, this wasn't the best year to have to sit out.  Eli now has 2 rings, earned the reputation for being the most clutch, and is definitely Peyton's superior in the postseason.

That said, I cannot have the Giants win another Superbowl, especially before the 49ers.  We can't have Eli Manning all of sudden have 3 rings.  Just not acceptable.


Ideal outlook:
Peyton's cut by Indy, signs with the 49ers, bringing along with him Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark.  He sets NFL yardage and TD records at SF en route to 2 SB rings while tutoring Alex Smith along the way.  49ers now have 7 championships, more than any other team.  Brady misses the playoffs, blames it on hangnail and promptly retires to grow out his locks and gallivant on more beaches with Gisele.  Gisele immediately leaves him for Ronaldo.  Belicheat admits to a decade of wholesale cheating while producing unassailable evidence of his crimes.  The Patriots are stripped of all their championships.  Peyton then retires and returns to Indy to mentor Andrew Luck in a budding rivalry with the hated Patriots' new QB, Matt Barkley.  Tim Tebow is traded to the 49ers as a hybrid QB/FB/TE/LB and is the league and SB MVP while bringing the 1st 3-peat in Superbowl history back to SF.