Archive for the ‘Basketball’ Category

Dunk off disaster

- February 17th, 2014

While many could agree that the NBA’s slam dunk competition needed a little bit of a makeover after going stale in recent years, what happened this year was a huge step in the wrong direction.

It went so poorly that in the individual rounds, we only saw six total dunks. This came after a freestyle round which saw some dunks that were average in dunk-off terms, with the exception of Damian Lillard’s two efforts.

Is that what we want from this once-hallowed event?

Also hurting the competition was the fact that there was no real way to decide who was crowned champion. Thanks to the awkward East vs. West format, we had one conference with the three best dunkers walk sweep the matchup round and end the whole thing earlier than I’m sure organizers envisioned.

Why couldn’t we go to another round and have the three East dunkers face each other for the title of dunk competition king? Instead, the only King we saw was Sacramento’s Ben McLemore crowning himself after dunking over a throne in a very average slam.

We didn’t even get the chance to see the usual “10” paper cards that we’ve come so accustomed to, instead having the judges hold up tablets with either East or West on it. What a bummer.

After watching the freestyle portion of the contest, I actually thought that Lillard wasted a few good dunks. In retrospect, it turns out that he wouldn’t have been able to use them anyways thanks the to the brevity of the event.

That’s a problem too: We should never have guys leaving dunks on the table.

We’ll never know what these guys had up their sleeves for their second or third attempts. Like, what was Drake still doing sitting with Terrence Ross after assisting on the first jam?

After all the tweaks this year, there is bound to be more next year. After all, we can’t have these guys doing six dunks maximum, including some throwaways in the crummy freestyle round.

We want to see the best dunks. We want to see some props and celebrities involved – it adds to the excitement of the event.

Whether the NBA goes back to basics next season is a real question. And perhaps that’s the biggest question other than what the hell that mascot John Wall used in his dunk was.

Was it the cousin of the Greendale Human Being? We’ll never know, but thing was bound to be in some children’s nightmares.

How to fix every sport’s all-star game

- January 27th, 2014

Even after all the rule changes and tweaks made for Sunday’s night Pro Bowl, the game itself was so terribly blah that the only redeeming thing about it was the final few minutes.

So the time has come and I have taken it upon myself to fix all-star games once and for all. Yes, we’re not going to fix just the NFL’s version of the all-star game, we’re going to fix them all. It’s a tough job – well, not really – but somebody has to do it.

Let’s start with a general problem that plagues every all-star game: Fan voting.

I understand that these games are exhibitions for the fans and a way to reward players, but having fans vote for the starters leads to controversy every year. Just look no further than basketball fans electing Kobe Bryant to start this year’s game despite playing just six games due to his Achilles injury and a broken bone in his knee.

I won’t go as far as to take voting away from the fans completely, but let’s scale it back a bit. How about having the top vote-getters in each conference make instead of the entire starting lineup? Or why not use fan voting as one of the factors, but not an automatic place on the team? That way we would see only the most deserving players competing.

Another general improvement I would make is to up the payday for the winning teams, giving players more incentive to compete instead of playing some unreasonable facsimile of defence that is often embarrassing to sports and competition in general. More cash at stake – for the players or charity – would eliminate some of the matador defence you often see in these games.

As for the individual games, let’s start with the easiest one to improve, the NFL’s Pro Bowl. How do you improve it? Eliminate it completely. Using a fantasy draft to pick the teams was a nice step forward, but not enough to salvage that trainwreck. Let’s just scrap the game entirely. Give the players their titles as all-pros, give them a trip to Hawaii, but don’t force them to play another meaningless game. It has no value to the fans, league and TV networks, so let’s just quit this farce.

For baseball, it’s hard to make changes when you consider that something is actually at stake for their Midsummer Classic. If you take out the whole playing-for-homefield-advantage thing, a fantasy draft could be quite interesting. You could even have the winner of the home run derby get first pitch and such. One other thing would be to have the fan-voted starters finish the game instead of starting it. That way you wouldn’t see some of the lesser “stars” facing off with the game on the line – although that does create more heroes in the game. Otherwise, there’s not much you can do improve the best all-star game out there.

The NHL, which started this fantasy draft craze, has pretty much plateaued. I think you could actually take it one step further to make deciding teams even more fun: Do it shinny style. Have every stick thrown in the middle of the ice and sort it out like that. Or, instead of having players as captains, have two lucky fans pick the teams. What a publicity win for the league that would be!

The only real way to improve the game itself would be to have a higher compete level and players that actually try on defence. An 11-9 score isn’t exactly representative of a real ice hockey game. But, again, that’s a general ASG problem.

The NBA all-star game is perhaps the easiest fix: Use a fantasy draft. There is no league in which the players are driven by slights as the NBA. Being passed over by a teammate who is captain or picked behind a positional rival would bring out the best sides of players in this meaningless exhibition. If you don’t think Rajon Rondo would go crazy after being picked last, you’re crazy.

And if you want me to fix the MLS all-star game – which is basically an exhibition against a European team – you’ve come to the wrong place. That thing is a nice exhibition, but it’s beyond fixable.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Your mostly uninformed NBA season preview

- October 30th, 2013

I have to admit: I had no idea that the NBA season was starting last night. And that’s very concerning considering I work on the sports desk and was actually editing Raptors copy the other day. Plus, I’ve been listening to Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose preview each team and still didn’t know the actual date of the opener.

Was there advertising for the opener that I missed, or was I just not looking in the right place?

I also figured that hoops started up on Halloween, or even the night after. Not on Oct. 29. And on a Tuesday night while the World Series is still going on no less.

Did the NBA not want to go up against the NFL on Thursday night? Because considering the quality of the NFL’s Thursday night games, I’m pretty sure LeBron James and Co. could have wiped the floors with it.

Well, whatever the reason, the hoops season is under the way and we actually might  have a competition for the title this year. Don’t get me wrong, James is probably going to win once again, but at least he might have to try this time.

Here are some predictions for the 2013-14 campaign.

Atlantic Division: Brooklyn Nets.

Central Division: Chicago Bulls.

Southeast Division: Miami Heat.

Southwest Division: San Antonio Spurs.

Northwest Division: Oklahoma City Thunder.

Pacific Division: L.A. Clippers.

Eastern conference final: Heat over Nets.

Western conference final: Clippers over Thunder.

NBA Finals: Heat over Clippers in five.

MVP: Kevin Durant, OKC

Rookie of the year: Victor Oladipo, ORL

Defence player: Joakim Noah, CHI

Surprises: Detroit, New Orleans, Minnesota.

Disappointments: Cleveland, New York Knicks, Houston, Golden State.

Worst team in league: Philadelphia 76ers.

What to do with no sports on tonight

- July 17th, 2013

So sports fans, you have two whole nights off from the four biggest North American sports league  – two of the three days in your average calendar year. It used to only be two, but baseball decided to extend their break by a day.

Quick Tangent: That was always one of my favourite trivia questions. ‘What are the only two days of the year when there are no major sports played?’

Of course, this doesn’t account for the other “fringe” sports that are going on. The Tour de France is about halfway done. There’s a tennis tournament in Sweden, but none of the big names are there. MLS is has a couple of tonight, but I doubt that you want to stay up to watch TFC play at 10:30 p.m. against a team – Chivas USA – that is equally bad as they are. The British Open starts Thursday, but that again is accompanied by a rather painful start time – the first tee-off is 1:32 a.m. EDT.

There’s also some CFL, I’m told, but who cares about that?

So what’re you going to do with all your free time? Here are some suggestions.

-You could go outside. You know, the place that they play sports. Maybe you can even organize a game of your own. Just remember to stay hydrated. It’s damn hot out there.

-Speaking of staying hydrated, you could go out and hit a patio for some adult bevies with your pals. This of course applies to either after you play some sports or even without partaking. There’s nothing better than sharing a pitcher to beat the heat with some buddies.

-Or, and this is probably the best idea for some, you could go on a date with your usually emotionally neglected significant other. They have to spend a lot of nights putting up with you sitting around watching one of our local teams likely lose, why not treat them for their patience?

But, whatever you do, don’t sit around and watch reality television. It’s bad enough that there are as many “Real Housewives” shows as there are.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Which was better: The NBA Finals or the Stanley Cup?

- June 26th, 2013

It only took until late June, but North America’s two winter sports have finally wrapped up their seasons. Yes, the NBA and NHL finished their finals in spectacular fashion as well. There is plenty of evidence that between the Heat-Spurs seven-game epic and the Blackhawks six-game triumph over the Bruins will go down as instant classics.

But the real question is, which one was better? Well that what blogs like this are for.

Star power

The NBA takes this without a doubt. When you have the biggest star in your sport, LeBron James, going up against on the best players of his generation – or of all time – in Tim Duncan, you win automatically. That’s nothing against Zdeno Chara, Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane; they just don’t matchup. And that’s not even including future hall-of-famers Dwyane Wade, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker on the NBA side.

Memorable games

How can you top the Game 1 triple OT in Chicago? The NBA had its share of close contests and incredible runs – including an OT game of its own – but the NHL takes the edge here. Even the fact Game 2 also went to OT on the heels of the opening marathon adds to the NHL’s argument here. You could argue that Games 6 and 7 in Miami were worthy, but just not quite.

Breakout performances

It’s hard to give this to any of the NHL guys since both these teams have won the Cup recently. The exceptions are the two keepers, Tuukka Rask and Corey Crawford, who both played outstanding in the series. But it’s hard to overlook what two Spurs did in the Finals. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green had amazing series and Green even broke the record for most three-pointers hit in a Finals.

The fans

The NBA sticks out here for all the wrong reasons. Miami Heat fans are among the worst in sports. Between leaving Game 6 before their team’s comeback to wearing all white to Justin freaking Bieber, there’s no way they get the nod over the NHL’s faithful. The one sidenote is that the NBC affiliate in Detroit didn’t even show Game 6 and that one affiliate ran a promo during play in Game 4’s overtime and missed the winner, but that’s just dumb networks’ fault.

Deciding game

This is a tough competition, but the answer is easy. To see the Blackhawks score the game-tying goal and the game winner within 27 seconds and with just under a minute and half to go was simply amazing. Game 7 of the Finals was about as close they come, with the Heat only pulling away in the final minutes and the Spurs never feeling totally out of it. But, obviously the NHL wins this one.

Comebacks

This one is a toss-up. Between the Blackhawks’ series-winner and the Heat making their fans look like idiots with their comeback in Game 6, there’s no shortage of competition. But it seemed like every game of the NBA Finals had a great comeback or incredible run and that gives it the edge.

Intangibles

The Heat won their second title in a row and are approaching dynasty status … the NHL had the more appropriate start times of 8 p.m. while the NBA’s weekday games were at 9 p.m. I understand that you want to give the west coast some time to get home and watch, but the NBA was just penalizing young fans on the east coast who likely couldn’t catch the end of most games … the NHL lockout is now in the back of many fans minds – not mine – which is quite the accomplishment. But never forget that this wasn’t a full season and shouldn’t be treated as such – like the Heat’s first title last season.

Final decision

This one comes down to the wire, but I’ve come up with one real deciding factor. Asking myself, ‘which would you rather watch if they were both on at the same time?’ and the NBA comes out on top. There’s just something about playoff ice hockey that can get tedious at times. There are more shots blocked than on target and the games get too defensive and sloggy, especially between these two teams. It turned out to be almost NBA-like that you could simply just watch the end of the games to really get the result and story of the game. But in the NBA Finals, every game was about the little runs throughout it that made the series incredible.

So, nothing against the NHL, but you’ve fallen just short of the NBA in this competition.