In case you were busy trying to figure out if the Xbox One is a prequel to the original Xbox, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
LeBron James scored an extraordinarily efficient 35 points on 14 shots as the Miami Heat beat the Phoenix Suns 107-92. He did so despite a strange moment when James called over an official and yelled, "Xbox! Turn the difficulty up!" before realizing he was actually playing basketball and not a next-gen copy of NBA 2K14.
Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco's offense finally got rolling in the 49ers' 27-6 win over Washington. "They dared me to throw the ball," Kaepernick explained after the game. "And at first I was all like, 'Nuh-uh,' and they were all like, 'Double dare,' and I was all like, 'Nuh-uh,' and then they were all like, 'Double dog dare,' and I was all like, 'No way,' and they were all like, 'Triple dog dare,' and that was unorthodox 'cause they totally skipped triple dare, and also they start Josh Wilson in their secondary, so I don't know why they were daring me to throw at all."
Some thoughts after a very depressing weekend of NBA basketball has left the league feeling unusually unsettled for this time of season, with scads of injuries and so many (Eastern Conference) teams with high internal expectations floundering horribly:
With Derrick Rose officially lost for the season, we don't need any more reminders about just how much luck and health-related fortune goes into winning even a single championship. All the VERY LOUD SHOUTING about "ringzzzzz" might obscure this, but how many rings would Michael Jordan own if Scottie Pippen had developed chronic knee issues? Bill Russell went down midway through the 1958 Finals, which the Celtics lost, and injuries both major and minor have tipped the balance of every postseason since. We would do well to remember season-altering issues to contender centerpieces (Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Willis Reed, Jerry West, Kevin Garnett, Oscar Robertson, Dave DeBusschere, Russell Westbrook, Andrew Bynum, Isiah Thomas, etc.) and sub-stars (Jameer Nelson, Sam Cassell, Lakers-era Karl Malone, Gus Johnson, and on, and on) the next time someone screams about how pathetic and "unclutch" it is that Player X hasn't won a ring. Health plays a giant role in deciding the champion — in literally every season.
For all the attention on the wonky basketball mysteries SportVU tracking cameras might solve, the real holy grail is combining that technology with others that might lead to some tiny slice of enlightenment on injury prediction and prevention. It will never be an exact science — not in our lifetimes, anyway. But any team that learns some small truth about injuries will have gained a valuable edge.
Casual Friday has gotten hella fraught for office workers in the last decade. What was at first a chance to relax a little and dust off those polo shirts and crisply pressed Old Navy jeans has become a referendum on who you are as an employee. The way you approach Casual Fridays tells your fellow employees and your boss how you think of yourself, so how can you be sure you're sending the right message?
In case you were busy putting in place overly ambitious field-wiping plans, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Despite coughing up another double-digit lead, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took advantage of a distracted Miami team, beating the Dolphins 22-19 to record their first win of the season. "Hee-hee! Yippee!" exclaimed head coach Greg Schiano to his team after the game, "we did it for realsies, friends! We got that first win, just like I wished we would. Now I promised you a special surprise when we won, and I'm not one to let my best friends down! So here it is!" Schiano then threw open the locker-room door, revealing an entire fun forest waiting for his team in the bowels of Raymond James Stadium. "It's all there!" Schiano said with a giggle, "a petting zoo, ice cream cake, clowns, face painting! I want you guys to just go nuts! You earned it!" Schiano then dove headfirst into a bouncy castle as the party DJ he hired started blasting Miley Cyrus's Party in the U.S.A.
In a battle of talented, young Western Conference teams, the Clippers withstood a late Timberwolves flurry to top Minnesota 109-107. "Man, I felt like Liam Neeson out there," said Clippers forward Blake Griffin after the game, "you know, when he's facing down those wolves. In the wolf movie. What's that called?" Clippers guard Chris Paul replied, "Dude, that's The Grey," but Griffin was unconvinced, saying, "Nah, I think it's got 'Wolf' in the title. Wolf Day Afternoon?" Paul shook his head, and said, "No, that's Pacino, and it's 'Dog,' not 'Wolf.' I'm sure you're thinking of The Grey," but Griffin was insistent, saying, "Nah, dude, duh, we're both wrong. It's not Wolf Day Afternoon or whatever made-up thing you said. It's Star Wolf: Episode 2, Attack of the Wolves." Paul then walked away as a pleased Griffin explained, "This game was like that movie. Lots of wolves."
Smart gamblers are all alike. Every miserable gambler is alike, too. Both are narcissists — the smart gambler believes in the power of his reason to stave off the generations of other smart gamblers who ultimately fall into degeneracy; the miserable gambler believes that God has the time to shit out bad cards just to fuck up his car payments. Neither are particularly nice people, but given the choice, I prefer the miserable over the smart.
I cannot stand the steely, Roarkian way smart gamblers carry themselves, nor can I support the idea that they, who spend their lives ripping off degenerates, have lived an enviable life (in 50 years, there will be a specific term for it like "optimized Asperger's" or something like that). And while I'd rather not listen to a miserable gambler bitch about the fourth spade that fell on the river and the $580 Seat 2 pushed into the middle with the four of diamonds and the six of spades and the shitty four-card flush that beat his pocket aces, I've found that miserable gamblers, on the whole, at least have a sense of humor about themselves. Or, to put it more simply, the miserable gambler will always show you naked photos of his "girlfriend" on his iPhone. The smart gambler will be the asshole who points out the very slim chances that the girl on the screen would ever be seen in public with the miserable gambler. Both guys have a point, but I guess I've reached the age when I'd rather just say something nice about the photo and go back to telling my bad table jokes about Korean people.
With 17 minutes left in the countdown until tipoff last night, United Center was still half-empty. Rain had beat down on Chicago all day, and adding wet roads to the already grinding rush hour crawl turns I-90 into one long parking lot. As the JumboTron clock hit 16:40, the people who had made it were enough to provide a glimpse of the type of night this was going to be. Shots of the Bulls waiting in the hallway flashed on the video board, moving from player to player. Derrick Rose was last, and when his image came onto the screen, the arena didn’t feel half-empty anymore.
For some, it was probably the first definitive statement they’d received on whether Rose was going to play. A stiff neck kept him out of shootaround that morning, and for a brief stretch, it seemed like the moment Chicago had waited 18 months for would have to wait a few more days.
There’s no sense in rehashing Rose’s saga from that year and a half. When he tore his ACL against Philadelphia in April 2012, the Bulls were the no. 1 seed in the East, with dreams of a title very much alive. Last season, the back and forth about whether Rose should play started in February and went until a depleted Bulls team finally ran out of steam and was put down by Miami. All of that was gone last night. The wait was over.
In case you were busy shooing weird-looking kids begging for candy off your doorstep, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Cameron Wake's game-ending sack of Andy Dalton was the difference as the Miami Dolphins snapped the Cincinnati Bengals' four-game winning streak via a rare overtime safety in a 22-20 win. When asked if Wake's pressure had gotten in his head, a confident Dalton replied, "Not at all. That game was just a real wake-up call for our team — no, no. I'm not going to do that, he's not in my head." Dalton took a deep breath and continued, saying, "I mean, fortunately this isn't some sort of wake for our chance to win the divis— no! Shit. There's another way to say that." Dalton then shook his head for a second before changing the subject, saying, "Let's talk about our defense, which did a great job even without Brandon Ghee, who went to Wake Forest — what is happening to me? Come on, I'm not brain-dead like those guys in Awakenings — gah!" A visibly desperate Dalton then said, "OK, OK. I'm gonna talk about something else entirely. Have you guys heard that new Arcade Fire album? Not as good as 'Wake Up' but — goddamnit! Wakeboarding is a great way to enjoy the summer — what? I don't even believe that! 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' was a hit by Wham — this has to stop!" Dalton then stood very still for a moment, before saying very slowly, "Credit to the Dolphins. They've come a long way since the Cam Cameron era." Dalton then paused and looked around the room, before suddenly blurting out, "Cameron Wake era. Dolphins can ride the wake. Wake up, Andy! Wake up!"
In case you were busy walking the plank at the behest of Bill Belichick, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
LeBron James and the Miami Heat opened their NBA championship defense with an impressive 107-95 win over Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. An optimistic Rose, who was playing in his first regular-season game since recovering from a torn ACL, said, "I'm disappointed in the loss, but my performance, I can easily change that by making shots and keeping down the turnovers." When Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau heard his point guard's comments, however, he flew into a rage, screaming, "He could have made more shots and avoided turnovers? Well, why didn't he? What the hell was he thinking?" Thibodeau then threw his hands in the air and said, "Jiminy Christmas, he was only out for a year. I have to micromanage everything with this team."
In the lead-up to the 2013-14 NBA season, Grantland will examine key players — X factors — for contending teams.
Earlier this week, Mike Dunleavy, 12-year NBA veteran and first-year Chicago Bull, was asked for his early impressions about playing for coach Tom Thibodeau.
"(Thibodeau's intensity) is higher than anything I've played at at the NBA level," Dunleavy said. “Very similar to going back to college and (playing for) Coach K. It just doesn't matter if you're playing against each other in practice, a preseason game, regular season game, you need to bring a high intensity and you need to get better every time."
The past two NBA seasons haven’t felt right without Derrick Rose having his say. When the league’s youngest-ever MVP went down in the Bulls’ first game of their first-round series in the 2012 playoffs, the NBA immediately became an incomplete product. He was the bright future of the league, destined for, at the very least, epic annual playoff clashes with elite teams. Immediately after tearing his ACL, the Eastern Conference became less competitive, turning into a relative cakewalk for the Miami Heat. We badly missed the mere presence of Rose in a playoff series — he alone gave you enough reason to believe that the Bulls could prevail.
In case you were busy preparing to take back a national park from the bears, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Jim Leyland's decision to move Austin Jackson down in the batting order could not have worked out better, as the Tigers outfielder broke out of his slump, reaching base in all four of his plate appearances in Detroit's ALCS-equalizing 7-3 win over the Boston Red Sox. Or could it have worked better? See, Jackson's suddenly hot bat raises this question: Why did Leyland demote his best hitter, costing him a valuable fifth plate appearance? Leyland clearly must now rectify his obvious mistake and move Jackson back up to the top of the order. However, because the outcome of every at-bat is at least somewhat dependent on the context in which it occurred, the question arises as to whether Jackson would have been able to succeed were he given a different set of at-bats. Which means that it's quite clear Leyland should bench Jackson for the remainder of the series lest he make another huge managerial blunder. But doesn't that theory apply to every offensive player on the Tigers' roster? Who is to say any of them can be expected to simply slot into a batting order and play baseball effectively? Which leaves Leyland with only one rational choice as manager: forfeit the remaining games of the series and resign in disgrace. So I think it's fair to say Leyland's decision to move Jackson down in the batting order could have worked out better.
Adrian Gonzalez hit two home runs and Zack Greinke threw seven strong innings as the Los Angeles Dodgers staved off elimination in the NLCS by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-4. "How dare they?" asked Cardinals manager Mike Matheny after the game, as his lip quivered with rage. "We go to their stadium and we expect to be hosted with a little bit of decency. But no. Instead we're treated to home runs and fast pitching and no winning! Don't they know we deserve to win? Isn't that a thing they know? How much winning we deserve? We deserve it. Because we care and we're better and we're the best and honor and America!" Matheny then balled his hands into fists and exclaimed, "Ri-ooo! Poon-toe! Puuu-eeg!" as if swearing in short high-pitched bursts.
Rare is the preseason game that gets the hallowed “absolutely must DVR” status. I can recall reserving precious DVR space for both Chris Paul’s debut with the Clippers and the Lakers’ first preseason game last season, which within the first two minutes featured a Steve Nash–Pau Gasol–Dwight Howard passing sequence on a pick-and-roll that ended with a Howard alley-oop dunk. It was terrifying. The Lakers were terrifying. We know how that turned out.
Derrick Rose is a human with a cell phone so I sent him some text messages.
Me: Derrick, what’s good? It’s Shea. Derrick: Hello. Me: What’s the word, man? Derrick: What do you mean? Me: Well, I mean, the season’s about to start. How’s the knee? Derrick: Feels good. Almost 100 percent. Me: Almost? Dang. Derrick: Dang what? Me: Because didn’t that happen in, like, 1997 or something?
As we filed into the stands of the Hall of Champions Gym in Long Beach, California, for the first game of the Adidas Nations Global Championships on Monday, I overheard a brief exchange between an amateur scout and a man who wandered in, sure of a spectacle, but unsure of what he was looking at:
In case you were busy confronting your ultimate nemesis, Wichael, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
In an AL East showdown, Tampa starter David Price threw a five-hit gem, leading the Rays to a 5-1 win over the Boston Red Sox. The win was Price's third complete game in his past four starts, which Rays closer Fernando Rodney called "kind of disrespectful. It's like he doesn't trust me. And yeah, I've made mistakes. But that was in the past. That's no reason to push me out of your life." Rodney dropped his head. "I just respect him so much, and I wish we could see eye to eye again."
Landon Donovan continued his resurgent play and the U.S. men's national team advanced to the Gold Cup final with a 3-1 win over Honduras. There they won't face rival Mexico, which fell 2-1 to Panama in the other semifinal. "We're rivals too!" said Panama, balling up its fists and kicking at the dirt. America chuckled derisively, and said, "Oh kid, sure you are," before mussing Panama's hair. This just served to further anger Panama, which began swinging wildly at the United States, which defended itself by putting the palm of its hand on Panama's forehead, leaving Panama too far away to land a blow.