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As has been noted in these pages before, I am not a huge NBA fan specifically. However, I am a fairly observant general sports fan, and so I do have a degree of awareness regarding basketball – just enough awareness to have opinions. Underinformed opinions, but opinions nonetheless.

And so – why not offer up an underinformed NBA Finals preview?

The Golden State Warriors are facing off against the Toronto Raptors in a best-of-seven series for the NBA Championship. The Warriors are here as Western Conference champs for the fifth straight time, having won three titles in the last four years. The Raptors, on the other hand, are here as Eastern Conference champs for the first time in the franchise’s quarter-century of existence.

For the casual fan, it’s a pretty solid matchup in terms of historic narrative. On the one hand, if the Warriors win, it’s a chance to experience a truly historic sports dynasty – only a scant few teams have ever had such a stretch of success. On the other hand, you’ve got a chance to see a title-starved city watch a team that they adore hoist a trophy. Either way is a win, really.

So which team is superior? Well, there are a few underinformed ways in which we can examine this.

Published in Sports

While the NBA postseason is rapidly hurtling toward its ultimate crescendo, the league isn’t quite done considering the regular season accomplishments of its players and coaches.

The league has announced the finalists for its six primary regular season awards – MVP, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player and Coach of the Year – with the ultimate winners set to be announced on June 24.

Considering that the playoffs tend to feature a lot more space between contests than we see during the season, a discussion of these finalists is a welcome way to keep talking basketball even if you aren’t particularly invested in any of the teams still standing.

And so we’re going to do just that, offering up a basic look at a few of the award races and the contenders for each particular crown. Then, just for fun, I’ll pick a winner, though considering the casualness of my NBA fandom, we should be sure to call it what it is – a moderately underinformed prediction.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 13 March 2019 13:12

Bracketology basics 2019

It’s that time of year again, that time when even the most casual of sports fans (or even non-fans) start paying attention to the wild and wooly world of college hoops.

That’s right, folks. NCAA tourney time is upon us.

Selection Sunday is just around the corner, so I thought I might try to get some thoughts out there far enough in advance for you fine folks to take advantage when the time comes to fill out your own brackets. Bear in mind - I’m no expert when it comes to the college hardwood.

However, I do have a touch of the degenerate gambler about me.

We all know the drill at this point: you pony up a bit of cash or sign up for a contest and fill out your own copy of the bracket, picking winners all the way through the tournament, up to and including the 2019 champion. If you make the best picks, you win the pot.

Of course, with over 9 quintillion ways to fill out a bracket, the odds are not in your favor. But hey - there’s always a chance.

Here are a few of my (very basic) observations with regards to the sweet science of bracketology.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 20 February 2019 14:00

Celtics Check-In 2019 – Third Quarter

It’s maybe a touch early to be marking the three-quarter mark of the season – with a 37-21 record thus far, the Celtics are 58 games into the season. However, with the All-Star break serving as a convenient delineation marker, it’s as good a time as any to check in.

It has been a nice rebound since we marked the season’s midpoint; Boston has won 80 percent of their games since the last time we visited them. Granted, that strong stretch moved them up just one spot in the standings – from fifth to fourth – but they’re just a game out of third.

It’s a team that has slowly been getting better, though they’ve got more than a few obstacles still in their way. Injuries and inconsistency have been the watchwords of the Celtics season; it’s all going to come down to whether they can get healthy and get their heads right in time for the postseason.

Let’s check in.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 20 February 2019 13:55

Basketball Hall of Fame announces 2019 finalists

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has announced the finalists for the Class of 2019.

The list – numbering 13 in all – includes four first-time finalists in Marques Johnson, Jack Sikma, Ben Wallace and Paul Westphal. The holdovers are led by Chris Webber; the list also includes Leta Andrews, Hugh Evans, Bill Fitch, Bobby Jones, Sidney Moncrief, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton and Teresa Weatherspoon.

The official class of inductees – everyone from this list who meets or surpasses the 75 percent voting threshold via the 24-person honors committee – will be announced during the NCAA Final Four.

It’s not quite as top-heavy a list as last year, which saw two of the NBA’s greatest point guards ever in Jason Kidd and Steve Nash. Still, it’s a quality collection of talent.

Published in Sports

Leave it to Steven Soderbergh to make a sports movie with hardly any sports action in it.

The auteur’s latest offering is “High Flying Bird,” released direct to streaming via Netflix. It’s the story of the game behind the game in the world of professional basketball as one agent, in an effort to do right by his client during a lockout by the owners, threatens to upend the entire model and throw the league into chaos – and one could argue that he’s right not just in economic terms, but ethical as well.

Soderbergh’s malleable ideas with regards to what it means to be an upper-echelon filmmaker in the 21st century continue on their merry way with this one. Following experiments both successful (shooting last year’s “Unsane” exclusively via iPhone) and not-so-much (the self-distribution effort to sidestep the system with 2017’s “Logan Lucky”), he’s keeping what works – the iPhone – and tweaking what doesn’t by letting Netflix wrangle the eyeballs.

The end result works – not surprising considering you’ve got Soderbergh directing a script from Tarell Alvin McCraney. It’s an insightful look behind the curtain of pro sports that feels genuine, a compelling illustration of how the sausage is made.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 16 January 2019 13:55

Celtics Check-In 2019 - Halftime

We’re just past the halfway point of this NBA season and the Boston Celtics have not been living up to expectations.

After 43 games played, the Celtics sit at 25-18, a mere seven games over .500 and a record good for just fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Worse, all four of the teams above them look poised to continue their relative success going forward.

It’s not all bad – the team has actually played significantly better since hitting the quarter-pole at a mediocre 11-10. It’s just that this team looked ready to take a big leap forward after last season’s successes. Instead, the C’s have stumbled backwards, though they might still find a way to turn it all around.

Let’s check in.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 28 November 2018 14:09

Celtics Check-In 2018 – First Quarter

I’ll freely admit to being something of a late adopter when it comes to the NBA. As a general sports fan, I was always aware of the NBA, but my interest never really went that deep – I was primarily and baseball and football man.

But recent years have shown me just how fun the game of basketball can be. And when the hometown team just happens to feature a mess of exceptional talent, well … it’s easy to get excited. However, this year’s squad hasn’t managed to proper utilize that talent to meet the loft expectations placed on them.

Obviously, we weren’t going to get a repeat of last year’s start; 16-game winning streaks don’t grow on trees. But we all though this team would be better than 11-10 at the season’s one-quarter mark. It’s not a terrible record, but at just above .500, they currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference. They’ll get better, but when?

Let’s check in.

Published in Sports

The Boston Celtics took fans on a heck of a ride last year, advancing to within one game of winning the Eastern Conference and heading to the NBA Finals for the first time in nearly a decade. Poor shooting on their home floor kept them from being the first team to keep LeBron James out of the Finals since … the Boston Celtics in 2010.

The 2017-18 Celtics arrived earlier than expected despite losing one big-ticket free agent acquisition (Gordon Hayward) five minutes into the first game of the season and the other (Kyrie Irving) with 20 games left. Yet with neither of their mega-talent additions on the floor, Boston still made the conference finals thanks primarily to huge leaps by youngsters Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and the deceptive low-key excellence of Al Horford.

That team won 55 games and was the top seed in the East … and this latest incarnation is almost certainly going to be better. Maybe a lot better.

Published in Sports
Monday, 02 July 2018 15:44

Ball don’t lie – ‘Uncle Drew’

Sometimes, you see a movie trailer and think “That looks terrible.” Other times, you see a trailer and think “I’d like to see that.” And every once in a while – rarely, but it happens – you get one that makes you think “That looks terrible. I’d like to see that.”

“Uncle Drew” very much falls into that third category.

The film – based solely on a character played by Kyrie Irving for a handful of Pepsi commercials wherein Irving would don a bunch of old-age makeup and prosthetics and proceed to humiliate people on various basketball courts. Pretty funny bit for a couple of minutes, sure - but for 90? With a Space Jam-esque collection of NBA players making up a significant portion of the supporting cast? Obviously, it was going to be terrible.

And even more obviously, it was going to delight me.

Published in Movies
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