Over the past week I’ve been going through basketball withdrawal. There was a playoff game on just about every night for the past two months, and, much to Jen’s chagrin, I watched parts of just about all of them. I’ve been obsessing over the Lakers more than usual this season. This year started full of promise: it was last year’s finals team with the size of Bynum, the energy of Ariza, and extra motivation from the fresh taste of bitterness from the previous year. A few random highlights from the playoff run…
It all comes down to execution. Both Denver and Orlando had mental lapses down the stretch in their close losses, and the Lakers were able to capitalize. In both series, around game 4, the opposing team felt like they were playing well enough to be up in the series, but neither closed out close games. Seeing the Lakers, with their insane number of options, execute their offense well is a thing of beauty. Their defense still isn’t perfect, but it came together at the right time (and it really helped that Orlando’s point guard situation was in shambles). Redemption for the Lakers. Pretty much the entire starting lineup (plus Lamar Odom, minus Trevor Ariza) has come under fire over the past two seasons. It’s been great to see them all have incredible playoff moments. The front line is ridiculous. In a league without a lot of great centers, it’s great to have Pau and Bynum. I think Bynum’s ready to have a big, injury-free year next year. Gasol has been a workhorse all season long, putting in a ton of minutes and delivering consistently. And it’s still amazing for me to see Odom leading the break, making nifty moves around the basket, and draining 3s. Kobe is good. Maybe he isn’t the most fun guy to play with, but you can’t argue with his drive, skill, talent, or ability to motivate the players around him. His work ethic is raising the quality of play across the NBA. His talent doesn’t give him a sense of entitlement; he’s still working harder than any other player out there. I love Trevor Ariza. The guy made big play after big play all season long. He became a deadly 3-pt shooter. He’s got a cute kid. It still blows my mind that he only made 4 3-pters in his NBA career before this season. The economy matters. Teams were making salary-driven moves during the season, and the downturn could affect the market value of free agents. I’m still hoping that Kobe is willing to come down a bit so that there’s enough money to sign Ariza or Odom. Ariza or Odom? I think it’s really tough to give up either guy. If forced to choose, I think we keep Odom, even though he’s older. His combination of talent and size is so unique, and he is an incredible team player. Plus can’t Kobe just teach the whole team how to shoot 3s? I’m kidding. I’d love to have them both back. Stepping up. The leadership and motivation of the team was called into question on several occasions in the playoffs. Still not really sure how Houston took us to 7 games. You’d think that this would never be an issue, but seeing the lapses really highlights how easy it is to momentarily lose focus. This one feels good. So many fantastic storylines this season. Really happy that it ended this way, and I’m looking forward to next season!
I didn’t blog about the NBA finals. They were too depressing, made worse by being surrounded by Celtics fans. After it was all over, I looked back to the beginning of the tumultuous season and took comfort in the fact that my low expectations for the season were to keep Kobe, make the playoffs, and put up a good fight and possibly advance out of Round 1. The loss still sucks though – given how many great teams there are in today’s NBA, trips to the finals could be few and far-between.
This season is different. For the first time in several years, we’re expected to win. We’ve got a unselfish, smart, young, deep, versatile, hungry team that looks like it’s willing to play tough defense and not take anyone for granted. I love our team.
First week here is coming to a close. Random observations:
Time difference: This is throwing me totally off. It’s weird to have to apply the +3hrs to people on the east coast instead of -3hrs to people on the west coast. I’ve already missed making a few calls home. Sports: I missed ALCS Games 3 and 4 because they were on at work and while I was at dinner. I had to leave work a bit early to catch Game 5 (which was probably the most unbelievable game I’ve seen). Miss the feeling of going to sleep right after the game as well as the post-game buzz and sleepiness that pervades the New England area after a game like that. Commute: When I go into the office, it’s over 20 miles each way. Social plans: It’s pretty hard to coordinate, especially with a single car. Jen took the train back from SF yesterday and arrived at 118am at the train station, which was 4 miles away. Home: We’re in corporate housing, which is pretty nice. Have been swimming in the evenings since exercise is no longer built into my daily routine. Worldly possessions: Most of our stuff is still in storage. The items I wish I had pulled out before they were packed: my monitor calibration tool and Joby tripod. Would have been nice to have my Wii Fit game disc too, since without it the balance board (which I had kept with me in Cambridge) is a paperweight. Weather: There’s less moisture in the air, so mornings are chilly and afternoons are hot. Hanging out with the wife: Not surprisingly, this has been good. Grant “getting in” on my cooking: It didn’t take him long, but he found me and I made him dinner.
Last weekend’s basketball-watching wasn’t satisfactory (I think there was a wedding going on or something). Didn’t catch any full games, only caught glimpses of the end of the Georgetown-UNC game while walking through the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. This weekend I plan on planting myself on Nick and Ceida’s couch for six hours to watch the games in HD glory.
My bracket is actually doing quite well. I picked the Final Four and will win if Florida beats Georgetown in the final. I’d like to thank my friends over at Big East Hoops for their advice, and I’d like to call out the Sports Guy for having too much faith in Kevin Durant. A few weeks ago when things weren’t looking so good I sold Lee a stake in my bracket. In retrospect it doesn’t seem like it was such a good move but I don’t mind it so much since he lobbied pretty hard to get me to join in the first place.
Anyhow, I’m looking forward to some quality basketball. I don’t really hate any of the teams. Teams in order of preference: UCLA (would love to see them avenge their horrendous loss last season), Florida (winning the pool would be nice), Georgetown (Grant’s love for them is contagious), and OSU (would like to see Oden have a monster game instead of getting into foul trouble).
During the Maryland-Butler game, the TiVo thought that maybe I’d like to switch over to watch some high school basketball. Nice try, but not a chance. Computers can be so silly sometimes. Today’s games were spectacular, even though some of them were marred by horrificly un-clutch free throw shooting. Fortunately my bracket is in shambles so I can cheer wholeheartedly for upsets, the Pac-10, and the Big East (Big East Hoops has converted me).
Overheard at the Everett Costco mini-food-court, one boy to his friend:
“Beckham’s getting like $205 million for five years. That’s so much money! Pedro only gets $52 million over five years. It’s because soccer is a harder game to play. The forwards are running around all the time.”
Good thing Lee wasn’t there, or he might have smacked the kid.
With Lee‘s blessing, I adopted the Mets as my team at the beginning of the postseason, even rooting for them against my hometown Dodgers. I had been following them pretty closely all year, and I was fortunate enough to be invited along to a Mets game earlier this season at Shea during a Zuckerman family outing.
Last night I watched the game over at Lee’s, with along Jeff, Dodzie, and Vanessa. The top of the 9th home run hit us like a forceful blow to the stomach. I can’t even begin to imagine what Mets fans are feeling as they wake up this morning.
I take some consolation in the fact that I witnessed one of the most incredible baseball plays ever: Endy Chavez’s catch at the wall to preserve a 1-1 tie. I didn’t think that they would lose after something so remarkable. But they did.
The World Cup is over. It has been a fun month of watching soccer. Today’s game was quite exciting. How different things would have been had Zidane headed that ball into the corner instead of directly at Buffon (who made an awesome save). Instead, his vicious headbutt got him thrown out and cost his team a better shot at winning the game during penalty kicks. I wasn’t really rooting for anyone (maybe just a bit for Italy), but it was sad to see him leave the World Cup stage like that. Now that the World Cup is over, I may cancel the cable again (and revert to the basic channels).
A few nights ago after work, Ben, Alex, and I kicked a soccer ball around a bit. Brought back some good memories of youth league soccer.
I paid off my last mortgage in Animal Crossing. I didn’t get anything for it and am a bit disappointed. On the flip side, I have collected lots of interesting beetles and a hammerhead shark. Jen discovered that part of the game involves interior design, so she spent two hours redecorating my house.
I have become re-addicted to online Tetris DS. Jen and I played our first online matches this past week.
I picked up Drill Dozer from Best Buy because it was on sale for $10. Your primary weapon is a drill, which is used to defeat enemies, drill through obstacles, and interact with other game elements. The game has a built in rumble-pack which shakes as you activate the drill, which is a nice touch.
Played San Juan, a strategy card game that Jess and Cy love, for the first time yesterday. It was quite fun. Basically you build up a town out of different types of buildings that contribute to your point total and give you special privileges once you build them. For better or worse, I have an unhealthy (and irrational) obsession with the “Black Market” card.
I watched my only hockey game of the season last night – Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. It was pretty exciting.
I tivo’d most of Game 6 tonight and caught up to realtime to see Dallas’s last possession live. This is actually pretty important to me because I don’t believe in watching recorded sporting events after the result has been decided. This game was meant to go to OT and the series to 7, especially with Wade missing those free throws at the end. Damn.
In any case, I still can’t believe it. The Heat play Jason Williams, Antoine Walker (his shimmy is one of the most annoying things ever), and Gary Payton. And they just won a championship. Does anyone else find this weird? And Shaq annoys me because he still takes every possible opportunity to criticize Kobe.
On the plus side, Alonzo had several awesome blocks and Dwayne is amazing.