In case you were busy really getting inside the mind of Barry Zuckerkorn in preparation for the new season of Arrested Development, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
The Los Angeles Kings are one step closer to defending their Stanley Cup crown after Jonathan Quick shut out the San Jose Sharks, 3-0, at Staples Center. The Sharks have now gone more than 96 minutes without a goal, which Kings coach Darryl Sutter credits to "playing a clean game, and keeping all the blood off the ice. Joe Thornton sees blood? Patrick Marleau? You've got a feeding frenzy on your hands. But right now they just keep skating by us, real passive, like we're not even there." When asked about the Sharks' home-ice advantage, Sutter added, "Oh, we're in trouble for Game 6. If you think [Sharks coach] Todd McLellan isn't going to gut a seal at center ice before the game just to get things going, you don't know McLellan."
Chris Kreider helped the Rangers avoid a sweep with an overtime goal in New York's 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins. The key moment in the game came in the second period when the Bruins, up 2-0 at the time, gave up a goal when goalkeeper and Klingon warrior Tuukka Rask fell over on a relatively well-defended Rangers breakaway. Rask was defiant after the game when asked if the defeat portended a Rangers comeback, saying, "Hab SoSlI' Quch! (Your mother has a smooth forehead!)" and then laughing heartily before eating what appeared to be a Targ heart out of a Tupperware container.
From time to time, the writers of Grantland will use this space to unpack a new sports book. Most of these books will be bad.
Relentless is a sports self-help/inspirational book by famed athletic trainer Tim Grover that reads like it was written by the love child of Gordon Gekko, Ayn Rand, and Sonny Vaccaro. Imagine The Onion doing a parody of an ultra-sociopathic Michael Jordan with the constant roar of the author swinging his dick like a helicopter rotor in the background and you have Relentless.
The moment I knew that Relentless would be a special read was when I got to Grover’s list of 13 traits that define a “Cleaner,” Grover’s term for the ultimate, take-no-prisoners type of winner exemplified by Michael Jordan. Why 13? “To remind you that there is no such thing as luck,” writes Grover, who is mostly known for training athletes in a sport where hitting the same percentage of your shots as a coin flip means you’re really good.
Don Draper always advises his clients with an aphorism: “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” That's decent advice for addressing a short-term problem about the perception of a brand or company, but it doesn’t do anything to actually solve a business’s core problem. This year, the Los Angeles Lakers have completed their evolution into one of professional sports’ most prolific organizational failures. They have changed the conversation so many times in the past year that they have failed to actually confront any of the problems that have lingered with the team since their last championship in 2010.
Being in a massive market with a built-in fan base does present a unique set of challenges and opportunities. The Lakers are different from small-market teams, whose business models can’t take on the same risks that the Lakers can assume annually and unload several years later. Superstar players are attracted to life in L.A., maintaining the casual fan’s attention with 'buzz-worthy' names and the addition of free agents coming off overachieving seasons. The excessive media attention on the Lakers and Kobe Bryant sometimes makes us wonder why they get special treatment, as if they are any different from the 29 other teams that will come up short every year.
It shouldn’t have been surprising that when it came to the end, this Lakers season would refuse to go quietly. There was a chance for dignity — even down 20 points and staring at the most thorough of playoff drubbings. Los Angeles’s starting backcourt yesterday afternoon consisted of Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris. If all the Lakers had done was stuck to their theme for this series — We stuck together, we never gave up — no one could’ve asked for much more. But that would’ve been too simple. These Lakers were a spectacle from the start, and they’d end the same way.
“It’s like a nightmare,” Dwight Howard said afterward. “It’s like a bad dream, and we just couldn’t wake up.” That the lasting image of Howard’s first season in Los Angeles is of him heading toward a darkened tunnel with 10 minutes left in the third quarter of a playoff game is probably fitting. For much of the season, the endless criticism of the Lakers’ newest star was probably overdone. It was obvious early on that the back injury that ended Howard’s season a year ago hadn’t fully healed, and he spent a majority of the season, physically, as a shell of his dominant self. Trouble always manages to find Howard, though, and plenty of that seems to be his own doing. As he left the floor following his second technical, Howard turned as he passed Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and hurled some words back toward the court. It isn’t clear for whom they were directed, and it probably never will be. “I can’t even remember,” Howard said when asked about the interaction.
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's playoff games.
1. Zach Randolph
Zach is back! Fourteen career playoff double-doubles! Lost his headband a couple of times! Clearly the beneficiary of a night spent in a hyperbaric chamber where you pump in 8ball & MJG mixtapes instead of oxygen! Steve Nash should try that. Right, Steve Nash?
In part 1 of 2, Bill tells Jalen and Jacoby his conspiracy theory of a Jay-Z and Lebron James business merger. Then they talk NBA Playoffs, and Kobe's future. In part 2 of 2, Bill, Jalen and Jacoby talk NBA Playoffs, Kenyon Martin's comeback, and whether Jay-Z, Obama, or Michael Jordan would get the best table at a nightclub. In the bonus video after the jump, Simmons pitches Jalen and Jacoby his theory that LeBron James and Jay-Z are setting the table to team up under the Roc Nation Sports banner.
Dominique Wilkins wouldn't wish a ruptured Achilles on his worst enemy. Where once he was the Human Highlight Reel, after his injury his game was changed forever. Elton Brand was never a highflier, but he felt the same pop that Kobe Bryant described after Friday night's crushing injury. His game changed, too. And Chauncey Billups can relate to the struggles of returning to the game late in his career after a devastating injury. It's a tremendous hurdle, even for an accomplished veteran and athletic freak of nature like Kobe. Wilkins, Brand, and Billups provide three case studies of players who made it back from Achilles injuries at different stages of their careers. The trio recently talked about their physical traumas and difficult rehabilitation efforts, and offered words of encouragement for the 34-year-old Bryant.
In case you were out busting people's chops and bringing them down a peg or two, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
The Masters has a new champion: Adam Scott defeated Angel Cabrera in a tense two-hole playoff to win his first major at Augusta National. But don't get too comfortable, Mr. Scott. You still have a generic moniker that you share with both an actor and (for the most part) a cartoonist. This means that many people will still picture another man's face when they hear your name, despite your mastery of hitting tiny balls into faraway holes. Hi-yo! Yes! Adam Scott's chops: busted.
The Atlanta Braves improved to an NL best 11-1, as they completed a sweep of the Washington Nationals with a 9-0 road win. But don't get too cocky, Atlanta Braves. Of the last three teams to start 11-1, only one made the playoffs. Therefore, your odds of making the playoffs, 1-3, are the same as they were when you started the season, 10-30. Small sample sized! Ka-pow! You thought you were on the top peg, Braves of Atlanta. Now what peg are you on? I bet it's the second or third one down!
Kobe Bryant suffered a devastating Achilles injury that will keep the future Hall of Famer out for the remainder of this season, as well as the beginning of the next campaign. But don't get too all up on your high horse, people who don't like the Los Angeles Lakers. Not only did the Lakers win both of their games this weekend to increase their odds of qualifying for the postseason, but also, Kobe Bryant has still won five championships, become a legend in the second-biggest city in America, and amassed a personal fortune from playing a child's game that will be used to purchase medical care that will ensure that, despite his Achilles tear, he will live a healthier, longer, and more comfortable life than yours. Buh-zing! Sing, oh muses, of the fortunes of Kobe's haters: "Not so great!" Homer'd!
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is here to help you keep track of it all. You'll find takes on moments you might've missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
Sleeping With the Lights On
netw3rk: The Boston Celtics exist in the minds of Eastern Conference playoff teams as something akin to the bogeyman. Even the Miami Heat — who certainly don't fear the Celtics — reach a pitch of intensity in their play against Boston, and a level of exaltation in their victories over them, that betrays a depth of hatred for the leprechauns unmatched by that for any other team.
When you put the bogeyman on his back, you stand over him and you do a dance. Every Eastern Conference team has a litany of Celtics grievances just waiting to be uncorked: the moving screens, the trash talk, the suffocating and gratingly physical defense that dared refs to blow the whistle every 10 seconds. And, yes, the winning. Because the KG-era Celtics didn’t just win; they stormed your arena, tore your relics out of their holy places, and gleefully salted your fields. That’s why, despite no longer being a truly elite team, the Celtics still have a sort of cultural hegemony over the Eastern Conference. The hatred they engender is the ultimate sign of respect.
In case you were out feeling agnostic toward piña coladas, but still got caught in the rain, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Kobe Bryant was en fuego, scoring 47 points as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 113-106. Bryant's big night overshadowed a stellar performance from Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard, who described going toe to toe as "really fun for a while, until things started to get, um, personal." When asked to explain, Lillard got very quiet. Bryant, when asked about Lillard's comments, said, "Kid's a kid, and when you're a kid, you're maybe not ready to see a grown man call another grown man who is wearing the same jersey he is some of the names I may have called some of the men who were wearing the same jersey I was. But if he didn't want to see that, then maybe those men who were wearing the same jersey that I was should maybe rebound, as they were expected to when some other men were traded for them this past offseason. The point is, we can stay quiet for the kids, but I say they gotta grow up sometime. Damian's a trouper. He'll be all right."
The Kansas City Royals completed a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins with a 3-0 win at Kauffman Stadium. The win keeps the Kansas City Royals atop the AL Central, and while the season is still young, it's never too early to prepare yourself for the consequences of a potential Royals playoff berth. In the event of a Royals playoff berth, you'll want to keep five gallons of purified water on hand for each member of your household. You'll also want to have cash on hand; remember, in the case of a Royals playoff berth, it's likely that the telecommunication systems we rely on in our day-to-day lives will fail, and you'll want to be prepared. While having a roll of duct tape handy in the case of a Royals playoff berth might help you build a makeshift shelter, you should not rely on it if a Royals playoff berth leads to unbreathable air conditions. Consider purchasing rated ventilation masks now. And when in doubt, an ounce of prevention can save a pound of heartache in the event of a Royals playoff berth.
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. Kobe Bryant
Robert Mays: I haven’t looked at the box score from last night’s Lakers win, and that’s on purpose — because I really don’t care to see it. I don’t know if Kobe Bryant went 10-for-30 or 15-of-25. I don’t know if he turned the ball over five times in a first half that I missed, or missed a dozen free throws. I do know that he scored 23 points in the Lakers’ 34-point fourth quarter, and that when Kobe was doing what he did last night, I have no use for words like “efficiency.”
As with everything related to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, there is the tendency to make a giant deal out of every game-to-game adjustment Bryant makes. Kobe finished with 11 assists last night, reigniting the debate over whether the Lakers are “better” when he’s in “facilitator” mode, or even whether Bryant consciously toggles between “facilitator” and “scorer” as a way to draw attention to himself and all he’s doing to WILL HIS TEAM to the finish line.
The reality is sometimes simpler: Kobe passed the ball so much and ran the offense against Dallas in a borderline make-or-break game because Steve Nash wasn’t playing, Steve Blake can’t really run a team, and not even Mike D’Antoni trusts Chris Duhon to sop up reserve minutes at this point. Kobe is a wonderful passer, and always has been. He’s such a fascinating player in part because so much of his passing ability stems from his almost unique selfishness as a scorer. A large portion of his typical assists come from post-ups and wing isolations in which Kobe holds the ball for SO DAMN LONG — sometimes as many as 10 consecutive seconds — that defenses almost feel like they must send an extra defender at him at some point. And when that happens, with the shot clock dwindling, Kobe is an expert at reading multiple layers of help defense and dishing to the Lakers’ very best option — the cutter, the player who comes open behind the cutter, or some other spot-up guy.
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. Carmelo Anthony
There was something quiet about Carmelo Anthony's 50-point game in Miami last night. Maybe it was the already reserved Heat crowd seeming downright sunburned and hungover, with one eye on their postgame Chilean sea bass. Or maybe it had more to do with the absence of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Or the fact that the Knicks game felt like a coming attraction in the shadow of the blockbuster entertainment that would take place in Los Angeles a couple of hours later. Whatever the reason, it didn't feel like a 50-point game.
In case you were busy learning how boring Nevada is outside of Las Vegas, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Texas's Yu Darvish was one out away from a perfect game, but he was forced to settle for a near shutout as Marwin Gonzalez singled late in the Rangers' 7-0 win over the Houston Astros. "He sure did mar my win tonight, didn't he?" Darvish asked rhetorically after the game, before adding, "see, you can make puns out of anyone's name. Not just mine, Yu guys."
Kobe Bryant got his 19th career triple-double as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Dallas Mavericks, 101-81, in a critical Western Conference showdown. The Lakers also retired star center Shaquille O'Neal's no. 34 at the game. Bryant showed great respect for his former teammate, saying, "He's the best player I've ever suited up next to. I mean, even Dwight Howard is no Shaquille O'Neal." Bryant's eyes narrowed, as a flood of memories came back to him before he added, "But, of course, Shaquille O'Neal is no Dwight Howard." Bryant's eyes narrowed yet further as he felt compelled to add, "But Dwight Howard is no Shaquille O'Neal," before Bryant's eyes became somehow even narrower as he said, "But Shaquille O'Neal is no Dwight Howard." Then Bryant, his eyes now impossibly narrow, added, "But, of course, Dwight Howard is no Shaquille O'Neal," before he closed his eyes completely, swallowed hard, and said, "and neither of those guys could hold Elden Campbell's jock."