In case you were busy playing quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
In a Sunday-night battle of division leaders, the New Orleans Saints ran roughshod over the Dallas Cowboys in a 49-17 win. "It was always a tough matchup for us," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said with a deep sigh. "We lost Sean Lee, Austin is still out, Ware's at half speed, our GM and owner are the same crazy old man, and that's a good team we played." Garrett then paused, stared straight ahead unblinking, and added, "metaphorically speaking um, all of that was a metaphor."
Michael Carter-Williams is here to make basketball fun again.
What. Is. Happening!?
Zach Lowe: Here's how bad it was: My annual column of "bold" predictions hadn't been out even 30 minutes when an executive on a non-Sixers team emailed to challenge my call that the allegedly tanktastic Sixers would win at least 10 games, thus avoiding the infamy of tying the league's all-time worst record in an 82-game season. "I say under nine wins," the exec proclaimed. "Lunch on whoever loses the bet." That's right: Very smart rival executives were so pessimistic about Philly, so put off (in some corners, anyway) by perhaps the most naked tanking scheme in NBA history, they were willing to wager meals on it. And I'm not above ordering steak for lunch.
Compiling the Triangle NBA All-Stars offers a way for us to celebrate the players we love way too much. You can see the other entries in the series here. Check out the latest additions, J.J. Redick and Andrea Bargnani, below.
Hey, guys ... it ain't White Boy Day, is it?!
It's White Boy Day!
Why We Love Him: The short answer is sort of self-serving. When Grantland did its Most Hated College Basketball Players bracket, Redick, easily one of the most loathed Duke players ever (and that's saying something), not only graciously agreed to talk about the subject with us, but proved himself to be an incredibly interesting interview. Speaking with Robert Mays, Redick was funny and candid about his Duke days. When Mays asked him about all the grief he took from opposing fans, Redick was honest: "I probably deserved it ... I was sort of a prick."
Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose are back with a breakdown of the Celtics' upcoming season that includes a potential trade sending Rajon Rondo out of Boston and a revelation that Jalen used to routinely deface the Celtics' home floor as a tribute to Larry Bird, all with the help of the Doobie Brothers. Lots of help from the Doobie Brothers.
Another day in Orlando, another day of interesting developments. I must say, I feel fortunate to even be able to write another column today. Yesterday, I watched with some serious trepidation as Joey Crawford approached Rasheed Wallace only to … shake his hand and act like he was seeing a beloved old friend. Definitely not the interaction I was expecting. Since the Amway practice center didn’t spontaneously combust as two of the NBA’s most temperamental personalities collided, I’m able to dole out yet another set of notes on the summer league action.
The Power of Thor
One of the (if not the) most consistently impressive players this week has been Boston’s Kelly Olynyk. The Canadian big man (Canadians, man … they’re taking over) has showed off an extremely polished skill set along with better-than-expected mobility. In Boston’s two-point win over Indiana yesterday, Olynyk had 21 points and nine rebounds while posting a sterling plus-15 in 29 minutes. Summer league stats can often be misleading, but the way Olynyk put up those numbers is what should make Celtics fans feel good about their team’s first-round pick. At 6-foot-11, Olynyk played on the perimeter like a guard. Early in the game, he caught a kickout pass in the left corner, only to shot-fake an onrushing defender before taking a silky smooth pull-up jumper. At one point, Olynyk ripped down a rebound, drove coast-to-coast and finished with a rip move over the top of a defender (à la Dwyane Wade) before laying the ball in. While questions still remain about how he’ll handle himself defensively and whether he has the strength to score on the block against legitimate NBA big men, there have been several encouraging signs this week for Olynyk’s future.
In case you were busy spending your holiday weekend reeling after rewatching Independence Day only to discover that, Pullman and Goldblum aside, it's a pretty bad film, here's what you missed in sports over the July 4 weekend:
Houston secured the coup of the NBA free-agent season, procuring All-Star center Dwight Howard's services for the next four years, on an $88 million deal. "It was tough to make my decision, but finally, at the end of the day, I had to say to myself, 'Houston, we don't have a problem,'" Howard said with a smirk as he discussed the deal publicly for the first time. "Get it? Apollo 13? They were all like, 'Houston, we have a problem.' Man, remember how funny that movie was?" When met with dumb stares, Howard added, "I mean, they were all good options. Being a free agent, though, is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you're gonna get." Howard then paused for laughs that weren't coming. "Forrest Gump! Come on! God, getting laughs from you guys is harder than the president with Monica Lewinsky. I mean, you guys are tougher than Judge Ito on Marcia Clark. Is this thing even on? Someone tell me how raunchy I'm being. Someone tell me that now, so I can be all like,'Oh, behave!' Now! I am Dwight Howard, funniest man in basketball, and I will not let my big free agency move fail to get me laughs! Someone set me up for a classic Mike Myers one-liner, now!" Howard then sighed and added, "Screw it, I'm going back to L.A."
"You can add it up. I don't want to do your job, but for me it's most important to have a championship.”
Those are the words of Mikhail Prokhorov from last September, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for his new billion-dollar arena, in regard to his Nets paying the luxury tax. Last offseason, Brooklyn made a series of headline-stealing, big-money moves to assemble a core of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez, all of which came with a hefty price tag (the Nets' payroll was $87.65 million last season), but one that also clearly stated the boss’s intentions. And if Prokhorov’s win-now approach was already on display then, it’s really on display now.
In case you were out tasting wine with other beautiful people in France, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
In a surprising turn of events, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett with the first pick of the NBA draft. Victor Oladipo went second to the Magic, and Otto Porter Jr., Cody Zeller, and Alex Len rounded out the top five. Nerlens Noel, who many thought would go first, dropped all the way to sixth, and the Kentucky big man vowed to "make them pay" for the snub. He was as good as his word; just hours later, he filed a lawsuit seeking $20 million in emotional damages from all five teams.
Sources reported that the Celtics and Nets have worked out a blockbuster deal that will send Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn in exchange for future draft picks and a smattering of players that includes Gerald Wallace. "I didn't want to be the oldest guy on the team," explained new Nets coach Jason Kidd. "It makes me feel insecure and gross."
Derek Holland hurled a two-hit shutout, and the Rangers beat the Yankees, 2-0, to win the three-game series. Good news, readers: This is a "choose-your-own-reference" joke! It's totally up to you whether the pun-based punch line involves a reference to "Mr. Holland's Opus," the Holland Tunnel, or famed English musician Jools Holland. Once you've decided, more good news: It's also a "write-your-own-joke" joke! So take that reference, use it to construct your own joke, and then send it in to win a prize. (I'm just kidding, there's no prize. Once you're done writing the joke, just sit around feeling the oppressive emptiness of life.)
For some, it took yesterday’s scene in Playa Vista — Doc Rivers, seated in front of a Clippers background, just behind a branded placard bearing his name — to believe this was real. As the rumors of a Rivers trade began, and through the negotiation’s stops and starts, there seemed to be endless opportunities for the Clippers to be the Clippers, to bungle what could be a franchise-altering decision that might serve as one of the final steps from cursed organization to actual contender. But there he was, the highest-paid coach in the NBA, wedged between team president Andy Roeser and vice-president of basketball operations Gary Sacks. There was Doc Rivers, head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers.
You can count Doc among those nonbelievers. By Sunday, he’d resigned himself to a return to Boston. Conversations with Danny Ainge about the state of the Celtics' roster had already begun, and when Rivers stepped into his son’s AAU game and turned off his phone, he wasn’t prepared for what awaited him when he powered it back on. There were a couple calls from Danny Ainge and more than a dozen from Rivers’s agent. “That's how volatile this whole thing was and had been," Rivers said. "I thought that this just took a long, winding path, but it found its way, so I'm happy."
As Rivers entered the gym at the Clippers’ practice facility yesterday, he did so in a polo shirt, slacks, and what looked like a pair of casual sneakers. This had all happened so fast that Rivers left straight from his offseason home in Orlando, where his wardrobe is mostly shorts and T-shirts. There wasn’t a suit to be had.
The trio was introduced by Clippers play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler, and Sacks wasted no time in outlining the magnitude of the day. “This is truly one of the biggest moments in Clippers history,” Sacks said. “We feel [Doc] is the best coach in the NBA and a perfect fit for our organization.” In the 30 or so minutes Rivers spent in front of a microphone yesterday, he was every bit the media-savvy presence he’d been in Boston. At one point, he asked that everyone refrain from using the “best coach” bit; he’d just watched the Finals like everyone else here. “I hope this is the last time I’m the center of attention,” Rivers said.
Let the record show that we always made fun of Ubuntu. The gradual disintegration of the Celtics’ Big Three era — which hit another milestone this weekend with Doc Rivers bouncing on Boston to try to make sure the denizens of Lob City play nice — might lead you to believe it’s only in hindsight that the rallying cry of the 2008 champions seems dopey as hell. Trust me: It always seemed dopey as hell.
Let’s travel back in time. The year is 2007, the city is Rome, and Ubuntu has just been born. From ESPN The Magazine’s cover story on the newly minted power trio: “‘Ubuntu!’ the Celtics shout as they break their huddle after practice. Coach Doc Rivers says he chose the chant over the typical ‘1, 2, 3, Celtics!’ after reading about Bishop Desmond Tutu over the summer. ‘Ubuntu,’ from the African Bantu language, stresses collective success over individual achievement. And maybe it's already having an effect. Boston's starting five all sported shaved heads in Rome, and Garnett bought each rookie three custom-made suits. The players hung out together nearly every night, cracking on one another for hours one evening on the Spanish Steps.”
Then, on opening night, when the new Big Three romped all over the Wizards, the heretofore unproven ameliorative effects of the work of Archbishop Tutu on basketball psychology appeared to have been confirmed, with much Úlan. As the team rattled off wins (8-0, 20-2, 29-3), these were, for Celts fans — grounded, after years of Vin Bakerisms, into sunken-eyed indifference — heady times. A manufactured all-star patchwork wasn’t expected to jell this quickly; this was almost an embarrassment of goodwill. But two things helped them avoid the post-Decision vibes that hurt the Heat. One was that KG, Paul, and Ray were just past their primes, which meant their team-up felt noble and selfless rather than craven and calculating. The other was that the big-grinning Doc, the ultimate players’ coach, had been handed his appropriate mound of clay and appeared to be molding it into elite, defense-first, team-basketball perfection. So yeah, sure, why not: Ubuntu, motherfuckers.
There are two fairly recent precedents for what happened with the Clippers and Celtics and Doc Rivers over the past 10 days. The first began on June 5, 1995, when Pat Riley, while still under contract with the Knicks, sent a secret 14-point memo to the Miami Heat outlining his contract demands, which included a 20 percent ownership stake, plus "$300 per diem expenses, credit cards, limousine service to and from games and a $15 million salary over five years."
Apparently that worked for Micky Arison and the Heat, because 10 days later Riley faxed a letter of resignation to the Knicks. Three months later, after the Knicks accused Miami of tampering and all this evidence — of, uh, blatant tampering — became public, the Heat agreed to send $4 million and a first-round pick to the Knicks as compensation. That's trade no. 1, and there are two lessons to be learned.
1. Never, ever trust Pat Riley.
2. In 1995, it was good to be negotiating contracts as Pat Riley.
On today's show, The Basketball Jones recap an entertaining Game 7 of the NBA Finals, share their favorite and weirdest moments from the 2012-13 postseason, break down the proposed Celtics-Clippers deal, and contemplate whether DeMarcus Cousins is a max-money player.
All that, plus Leigh's Tweet of the Weak, sleeved jerseys, back problems, Box Out Kid, and an important offseason programming note.