Friday, June 23, 2017

Hey, look! It's a draft!

The NBA draft was in Brooklyn last night, and, no, the Blob was not taken again for the 44th straight year. Apparently there is no market these days for a 6-foot-1 62-year-old whose jumper is more a hopper these days, and in any case departed the premises quite awhile ago.

Some other guys did get the call, though, and so here are a few brief thoughts on the whole business:

1. The Suns got a better pick at 4 than the Celtics did at 3.

This is because I like Josh Jackson of Kansas more than I do Jayson Tatum from Duke. Sorry. I just do.

2. The Trail Blazers had a hell of a draft.

They got, let's see, Justin Jackson from North Carolina, Harry Giles from Duke and Caleb Swanigan from Purdue.

That's a strong draft. It's especially strong when you consider how in love everyone was with Giles before he got hurt and lost some of his explosiveness. Word is that's coming back now. So maybe he winds up being the steal of this draft.

And Swanigan?

Poor man's Draymond Green on the top end, solid bench help on the bottom end. Think he'll be better than some draftniks project.

3. The "OG" in OG Anunoby stands for either "Oh, gee!" or "Oh. Gee."

Listen, NBA teams draft potential, and Anunoby is the gold-card example of that. Two seasons ago, when he was an understudy in the IU system, he came on like the next Victor Olapido. This past winter, as a far more prominent part of the equation, he wasn't remotely the same player -- even before he got hurt.

So the Raptors rolled the dice at 23 with him. Either he's the guy everyone saw in 2015-16, or he's the guy everyone saw last season. Time will tell.

4. Paul George is still a Pacer, and Jimmy Butler is not a Cav.

The Blob's response to the first: No, I don't know why.

The Blob's response to the second: The Timberwolves should send Dan Gilbert, the Cavs' idiot owner, a decorative fruit basket. With a card that reads, "Thanks, knucklehead, for getting rid of your GM while he was working on his own deal with Butler. We appreciate the gesture."

5. Watching LaVar Ball walk around New York running his mouth was, I can't help it, fun.

New Yorkers, generally immune to celebrity, were acting like a bunch of star-struck gomers from Keokuk -- stopping him on the street to say hi, shaking his hand, the whole bit. And of course LaVar was eating it up. If ever a city and a personality were made for each other ...

6.  The Celtics picked a guy named Bird. Naturally.

OK, so it wasn't Larry this time. It was Jabari Bird, a shooting guard from California. And Boston took him with its last pick in the second round.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Felony rooting

There are rules to this sports deal, you know.

If you live in Indiana, you can cheer for Purdue or you can cheer for Indiana, but you can't cheer for both unless you have kids going to both schools.

Also, even if you're not a Colts fan, at least don't be a jackass and root for the Patriots.

Also, do not -- DO NOT -- wear opposing team gear to an NFL game in Philadelphia, Oakland, New England, probably Cleveland and probably Pittsburgh (especially if you're wearing Browns gear in Pittsburgh or Steelers gear in Cleveland). This is especially true if you're sitting in the nosebleeds, aka, the People's Republic of Drunk.

Violating these rules could get you beat up. It could get beer thrown on you. It might even land you in jail if you get caught up in a drunken melee, which is sort of the unofficial national pastime in the aforementioned Republic of Drunk.

It's unlikely you'll go to prison for life, however.

This apparently can happen in India, it seems, if you get caught cheering for Pakistan's cricket team. (Yes, that's right, cricket. Wicked googlies, silly mid-offs, incomprehensible scoring. All that.) Fifteen people were arrested the other day in central Madhya Pradesh because they were cheering and throwing firecrackers to celebrate Pakistan's victory over India in the Champions Trophy cricket final. That this was largely a product of age-old religious strife -- the fans, like much of Pakistan itself, were Muslim, and the people who turned them in were, like much of India, Hindu -- doesn't change the fact they now face sedition and criminal conspiracy charges because they cheered for the wrong team.

This seems a tad over the top, to say the least. But again, we're not seeing it through the prism of people who've been at each other's throats over religion since the partitioning of India 70 years ago. Enough blood has been spilled since by both sides to render any appeal to rationality fruitless.

It does, however, give Americans who think we take sports too seriously some vital context.

I mean, come on. Joe Iggles Fan in Philly gets drunk and starts pounding on the poor dope in the Eli Manning jersey, he gets thrown in the slam to dry out, and maybe faces an assault beef. He doesn't get charged with sedition and criminal conspiracy.

Although the next time the USC band desecrates the Cathedral of Football -- aka Notre Dame Stadium -- with their annoying fight song, the many lawyers among the Domeheads might be tempted to give it a whirl.

Bleeping Trojans, anyway.

Today in decorum news

... the Blob presents Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who whizzed all over baseball's unwritten rules by lingering at homeplate to admire his three-run homer in an 8-2 victory over the Mets, who weren't happy with his breach of decorum.

Seems he "disrespected" the game and the Mets, according to first baseman Wilmer Flores.

The Blob has three reactions to that:

1. Waaaah.

2. If you don't want guys "disrespecting" the game on you, Wilmer, tell your pitcher to make a better throw next time.

3. Waaaah.

That is all.

Well, except for this: As the Blob has said before, those unwritten rules are unwritten for a reason.

'Cause they're dumb.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The NBA daft

And now for the Blob's latest wacky theory, one which will fit neatly alongside Tom Brady Is A Cyborg Sent From The Future By Skynet To Kill Us All, and Donald Trump Was Sent To Us After The Gods Got Drunk One Night And Said "Watch This!"

Today's theory is The NBA Draft Makes People Crazy.

Which is the only explanation that works for what's happening in Cleveland and New York this week, except that there's demonstrable evidence the two main players, Dan Gilbert and Phil Jackson, were already crazy. The upcoming draft, though, does seem to have led to elevated levels of crazy for both.

Let's take Gilbert first.

The Cleveland Cavaliers' owner had a perfectly good GM in David Griffin, one who's been around for the last three years, when the Cavs only made the NBA Finals three straight years and won a title last year. Plus, LeBron James likes the guy, and keeping LeBron happy would just seem to be smart business given that he's going to be a free agent next summer and will be wooed by practically everybody.

So what did Gilbert do, three days before draft?

He basically pushed Griffin out the door.

Griffin wanted more money and a contract extension, which he'd surely earned, but Gilbert has this weird thing about not extending his GM's contracts. He's never done it before, so why start now? So he said "No."

And Griffin resigned, quite understandably. And LeBron ain't happy about it. And now the Cavs go into the draft without a GM, and whatever shot they might have had at the Bulls' Jimmy Butler -- a deal Griffin was reportedly working on -- is in the wind.

Smooth move, Ex-Lax, as someone once said.

And speaking of smooth moves, let's move on to Phil Jackson, architect of the demolition site that is the New York Knicks. He's already done crazy stuff like re-sign Carmelo Anthony and then proceed to trash him at every opportunity. Now comes the news that the Knicks, though not actively looking to trade him, are listening to offers for 21-year-old phenom Kristaps Porzingis, a ridiculously skilled 7-foot-3 freak who's the future of the franchise.

Porzingis was already disgruntled by the circus Jackson has created in New York. Now he's sitting over there in Latvia reading that the Knicks are taking phone calls from other teams about him. How thrilled must he be about that?

One working theory here is that Jackson actually wants to get fired, and this is his Phil-like passive-aggressive way of making it happen. Maybe. But if he's that sick of the Knicks, why not just quit? He is, after all, deep into retirement age. So why play games? Why not just ride off into the sunset?

Only Phil knows. In any case ...

Smooth move. Part Deux.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Today in not-really-news

Funny thing about bombshells. Sometimes you drop 'em and they don't go off.

Sometimes you drop 'em and they just go poof, because they're not really bombshells, they're common knowledge dressed as bombshells. The metaphoric newsboy shouting "Extra, extra, read all about it!" loses his voice because we've already read all about it.

As in, "Extra, extra, existence of gravity confirmed!"

As in, "Extra, extra, dog eats child's homework!"

As in, "Extra, extra, Paul George decides to ditch Pacers!"

Because, come on, we all knew that was coming.

We all knew George was going to play out his deal and head elsewhere, preferably the Lakers because that's basically his hometown team. He wasn't popping up on the late-night shows out on the West Coast by accident, after all. And, really, what's he got to stay in Indianapolis for at this point, even if the Pacers were prepared to throw a significant pile of dough at him? The shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo's?

You can wish he'd stick around and be the centerpiece around which the Pacers build a contender, but he's already been there and done that in Indy. The Pacers did build a contender, but, like so much else in professional sports, it didn't last. For a myriad of reasons and circumstance -- not all of which was within the Pacers' control, because it never is -- they dismantled it. Or it got dismantled. Either way, it works out the same.

Which is, at the same time the Pacers were erasing the blackboard and starting over (or sort of starting over), George was emerging as a perennial All-Star and one of the game's most attractive two-way players. Last season he averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.6 steals to help drag the Pacers into the playoffs; then, in the first-round loss to the Cavaliers, he stepped up his game the way superstars are supposed to, averaging 28 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.8 steals.

And now he's going to leave for brighter lights, because that's what players in his position do. You can be angry at him for the timing of his announcement -- days before the NBA draft -- but not for the announcement itself.

Because, again, you knew it was coming. And because it's the way of things not just now but forever.

The talking heads can sound all the alarms they want about the NBA becoming a league where the superstars all gravitate to the big markets and most successful franchises, but in a sense that's always been the case. And it's not like there aren't stars in other markets just like there's always been.

Russell Westbrook is still in Oklahoma City. Anthony Davis is still in New Orleans. Bradley Beal and John Wall are still with the Wizards, Gordon Hayward's still with the Jazz, Damian Lillard's still with the Trail Blazers.

Sure, they may not be there forever. But that's been true since the advent of free agency. And when they go, other rising stars will emerge to take their place. Thus has it ever been.

Paul George dumping Indy for wherever?

No worries. The next Paul George is coming.

Things passed along

It is Father's Day, and so I will refrain from writing about LaVar Ball and all other Sports Dads From Hell. I'm sure they meant/mean well. I'm sure I am grateful every day I A) was lousy at pretty much everything that involved moving, and B) had a dad who didn't try to build an apparel line around me, didn't hog the spotlight on "my" behalf and didn't use me to vindicate his own pale athletic legacy.

No, sir. My dad -- an electrician by trade and skilled woodworker who, in his encore career as an employee of the Mackinac State Parks Commission, once oversaw the building of a barn using only 18th century tools -- taught me other things. The importance of doing things right. The value of keeping your word. A love of history that produced a confirmed Civil War nerd who now has a telling photo hanging in his office at Manchester University: Two ancient Gettysburg veterans, one Confederate and one Union, shaking hands over the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge.


Weirdly, considering I grew up to be a sportswriter for 38 years, we never bonded over it the way some fathers and sons do. The pinnacle of my dad's Sports Dad history was watching his son get his butt kicked by a strong headwind running the 2-mile at Bishop Dwenger one day, and telling my mother (who was sure I was going to quit) that I wasn't going to quit.

And I didn't. They might have timed me that day with a sundial, but there was no way on God's green earth I was going to get beat by the bleeping WIND. Stupid Mother Nature.

It's a story I've told before, and it's one I told in detail here a year ago, Except for the part about the Cavs, the Warriors and Game 7 -- which the Cavs won, vindicating what a lot of Cleveland dads, and dads everywhere,  told their sons about never giving up -- everything I wrote then still applies.

Love you, Dad. Whatever small success I've had in my life, I owe to all those Dad lessons you taught me all those years ago. You're the best man I ever knew.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Wax on. Wax off. RIP.

And now, to honor the memory of John Avildsen, who directed "The Karate Kid" and "Rocky" and who just succumbed to cancer at 81, this.

Also this.

Also this.

May he eat lightning, crap thunder and nail The Crane for all eternity.