So much is happening in the world of sports that I’d have to write five pieces to adequately address everything that’s gone down in the past week. But that would take a long time and I don’t get paid for this (yet).
A quick recap. First the Red Sox swept the Yankees at Fenway. Then the Bulls scorched the Heat in four, making Miami the weakest defending champion in decades. Next the Sox proceeded to take two of three at Yankee Stadium. Then the Patriots traded a signed-Tom Brady jersey to Al Davis for Randy Moss (actually it was a fourth round pick). Finally the week concluded with the Golden State Warriors winning Game 4 against Dallas, to go up 3-1 against the defending-Western Conference champions.
What does all that mean? Well most relevantly it means my NBA Playoff Preview Part Deux has officially been “deaded” quicker than Turtle’s record deal with Saigon on “Entourage”. It also means I now have the chance to throw my two cents on all of it…
Yankees The Yankees have suffered through slow starts before (they were 9-13 two years ago) but what strikes me about this April is that without A-Rod the Bombers wouldn’t have won more than five games. Because with him they still only won nine!! That’s embarrassing. Just how embarrassing is anyone’s guess. But if you want to find out for yourself, and you happen to have the pleasure of being chummy with a New York fan, ask them what’s worse: watching A-Rod’s most prolific-April in history result in a record of 9-14 or living through a 5-18 start, which evidently would have been the case minus A-Rod’s superhuman effort early on. I say the latter’s less humiliating, because the Yanks starting staff is ravaged and Mariano Rivera always struggles out of the gate, so Yankee fans would at least have a viable (albeit weak) excuse for such a sputtering start. But with A-Rod hitting more home runs than some divisions over the first half of the month, to win nine out of twenty three games is just poor.
Red Sox I can count on one hand the number of players in the game today who are capable of carrying their teams for a stretch of time all by their lonesome: Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez (honorable mention: Vlad Guerrero, Ryan Howard, Carlos Beltran). Here’s my point: look at what A-Rod has done in comparison to what Manny has done until this juncture. Now extrapolate that s**t. Yankee fans love noting how “it’s only April”. Well for Manny April represents the calm before the storm. While A-Rod’s .355-14-34-1.297 has been the respirator on which the whole Yankees-organization is breathing, Manny’s .202-3-13-.629 has been nothing short of a comical farce. Why? Because the Red Sox have taken five of six from New York and have the best record in baseball. Manny, meanwhile, has contributed little more than a few bombs and a couple goofy exchanges with Dice-K. We all know that as the weather warms up so too does Manuel Ramirez. (Makes that 6.5 game lead seem a little more imposing, doesn’t it?)
Randy Moss Let’s make something clear right away: the Patriots don’t need Randy Moss. In the months subsequent to their collapse in the AFC Championship they signed the deep threat (Dante Stallworth) they so desperately needed, a big and physical possession receiver (Kelley Washington), and a slot-specialist (Wes Welker). Those acquisitions supplemented a receiving core that proved to be nearly sufficient enough to return to the Super Bowl. So when the opportunity arose to pull Moss out of Oakland for nothing more than a fourth round draft pick, Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli probably said, why not? Then they met with Moss, and most assuredly laid down the law cut and dry. Something along the lines of if you come here and work like every other guy on this team, you’re going to win a Super Bowl. Anything less and you’ll be out on your rear end quicker than you could ever imagine. The knock on Randy Moss has always been his incessant and inherent selfishness. Now he has the opportunity to tie his personal legacy into that of the most successful franchise of this era. Here’s one vote saying Randy chooses the Patriot-way over the highway.
Mavs-Warriors Forget the 67 wins in the regular season. Twenty percent of the Mavs’ 15 losses came against the Warriors. (That’s three.) And frankly they look exactly like the team that last June stood by, in shock and awe, as the Heat took four straight from them in the Finals. Which is to say they’re playing scared. And timid. Playing the Warriors period was already the worst-case scenario for Dallas. It’s rapidly becoming a worst-case nightmare. Including playoffs, Golden State has now taken a whopping nine of the last 11 from Dallas. The Warriors’ coach, Don Nelson, knows all of Dirk Nowitzki’s secrets. And their fans are genuinely intimidating. So how exactly are the Mavs going to pull off three straight and avoid becoming the biggest fraud in NBA history? Don’t ask me. Optimists will point to last year as the Suns climbed out of a 3-1 hole to down the Lakers. The parallels end there. The weight on the shoulders of the Mavs is immense. Between their implosion in the Finals last year to dominating the entire league but Golden State this season, the Mavs are going to have to overcome history and reality. (Plus Stephen “Haymaker” Jackson.)
Finally, a few notes on imminent Eastern Conference second round matchups…
Nets-Cavs This Nets team is pretty much on par with the New Jersey teams that went to back to back NBA Finals a few years ago. Difference is the rest of the Eastern Conference was god-awful back then. No more will Jason Kidd win multiple playoff series’ by leading the fastbreak and tossing alleys to Richard Jefferson. The Nets reign as the most hard-nosed defensive team in the East has long passed. Simply put, anything the Nets can do Lebron can do better. Shoot. Pass. Defend. All advantage Lebron. He’ll ultimatley need a true wingman to take the next step, that much is known. But for the moment Lebron won’t have too many problems disposing of a team that recently has taken nothing but steps back.
Bulls-Pistons The Pistons exhausted their nitrous way too prematurely last year. For a team that already understood the grind of winning an NBA title, Detroit burned itself out in the 2005-06 regular season (64-18), had to dig itself out of a 3-2 hole just to defeat King James in the second round of the playoffs, then bowed to the Heat in the East Finals. I know what you’re thinking. To say the Bulls are hot after watching what they did to the defending champs would be like saying an ice-bath is cool. And yes, Ben Wallace did get the better of his old team during the regular season, but don’t let that fool you. Chicago is still maturing, and this season Detroit has adapted its mentality to that of a team expecting to win a championship.