First things first, Ken Griffey Jr. retired. When I was a kid in the 90s Griffey was the coolest superstar baseball had to offer. His menacing swing that looked like a deep fly ball waiting to happen every pitch, the backwards hat and the long strides in centerfield that swallowed up grass were all distinctive Griffy features I'll miss, even though I hardly watch baseball anymore.
Career numbers from him were:
.284 BA, 630 HR, 1836 RBI, 2781 hits.
for the newly realized all important OPS he had a career .370 OBP and .538 SP amounting to a .908 OPS. He was a good player...
And that was done despite injuries that deeply cut into the end of his prime and despite, as best as anyone knows, not participating in the steroid era.
There are those that hate events like this in basketball and those that savor another Celtics-Lakers Final. Count me amongst the latter, primarily because I'm a fan of the league and not any individual team (I like the Texas teams and hate the Lakers but I'm a fan mercenary for any team I enjoy watching). For someone that enjoys the NBA and its history another finals between the heavyweights is just more potential lore to enjoy.
For one, you get columns by Bill Simmons where he really amps it up, knowing that his niche in the sportswriting world is in narrating events such as this. Of course many sportswriters, such as Simmons, will inevitably use this series to determine things the series has no business determining like:
1). Where Kobe ranks compared to Michael Jordan (answer, unfathomably behind)
2). Where Kobe ranks amongst all-time Laker greats (infinitely behind Magic Johnson)
3). Which Franchise holds the edge in the most recent incarnation of the rivalry (actually this one is legit)
Lakers fans go crazy at the potential Boston argument that their 2009 title is held only because of injuries to Celtic greats (much like the Boston excuse for 1987) and you know that Gasol and Kobe will be fiercely united, at least until the signs of disaster appear, in order to bring down the squad that has stained their reputations.
Both teams could be stained by some of the moves that brought them here. Boston traded a very good player in Al Jefferson and acquired probably the greatest player of this decade in Kevin Garnett (albeit past his prime) without giving up anything that has proved necessary in building around him. Ray Allen was acquired at fair value and Rondo and Pierce are home-grown.
The Lakers have achieved their success from Odom and Kobe but mainly from Gasol who was acquired by trading one of their worst players in Kwame Brown.
So it could be said that either team has been unjustly fashioned through stupidity on the parts of their competitors, but such is life. I believe Texas holds a similar advantage over a certain rival to the east...
The reason I bring all this up is because I don't feel the Lakers title in 2009 can be discredited by the injury to Kevin Garnett. The breaks are part of the game and both franchises have done a better job than most at seizing the advantages offered by tyche so there is no point in bitching when the other organization is getting the breaks. You Houston fans are probably nodding your heads right now having been victimized by Yao's feet, Sampson's health, and having capitalized on the absence of a certain Bull in 94 and 95...
If we examined this series from my new favorite metric (winscores) applied over the regular season we would get an obvious Laker victory since the Celtics spent the 2nd half of the season looking like they came into every game after a CiCis pizza binge. Judging by regular season winscores would have resulted in predictions of defeat for all the previous Celtics series as well. DaveBerri over at the Wages of Wins Journal avoids that by using the 1st half Celtic numbers but I'm going to steal their playoff scores for my purposes.
I'm providing the numbers for the "top 7" guys from each team over the course of the post-season. You'll see why that's in parenthesis when you see the scores for some of these guys that are receiving primary minutes.
Boston Celtics overall WP48 average (wins produced per 48 minutes) .130
Rondo: .270 WP48, 3.95 wins produced
Pierce: .171 WP48, 2.32 wins produced
R. Allen: .127 WP48, 1.72 wins produced
Garnett: .150 WP48, 1.70 wins produced
Kendrick Perkins: .049 WP48, .44 wins produced
T. Allen: .094 WP48, .56 wins produced
Davis: .075 WP48, .53 wins produced
An average NBA player has a WP48 of .100. The Celtics, as we already may have guessed, draw strength from having 1 superstar and then the big 3 well above average starters we are all familiar with from Sportscenter commercials. Additionally, they don't have anyone who produces a negative score.
The Lakers have an average WP48 of .125 and their top 7 goes:
Gasol: .299 WP48, 3.86 wins produced
Bryant: .200 WP48, 2.64 wins produced
Odom: .199 WP48, 1.97 wins produced
Bynum: .251 WP48, 2.02 wins produced
Fisher: .012 WP48, .14 wins produced
Farmar: .076 WP48, .34 wins produced
Artest: -.001 WP48, -.01 wins produced
So we can see that the Lakers' top 4 are actually better than their more famous Boston counterparts. The trick is in the following bits of data,
1). Bynum isn't healthy and may not actually perform as far beyond Perkins as he is capable. If the little rest or anything the Lakers training staff can do for him in these few days off make a big difference...
2). Artest is almost an empty shell on the court who ultimately is a negative in the pursuit of victory. Now people will say that's ridiculous because he "stopped durant", "won game 5" against the Suns, and will lock down Paul Pierce.
Well, if Artest didn't waste so many Laker offensive possessions without contributing more the game 5 against Phoenix wouldn't have been close to begin with. As far as shutting down Durant, that's probably true. The question though is whether his elimination of another player's productivity can make up for the massive damage he does to his own team's chances of victory.
3). Garnett hasn't been old school Garnett. If he can gather himself for some big performances in this series it could all be over, even if he doesn't he's still playing at a level beyond that which most players in the league can achieve.
4). Kobe Bryant is playing at a high level and will certainly receive credit if the Lakers prove victorious.
This is reason number one I'm rooting for the Celtics. Gasol, Bynum and at times Odom can be more productive players for the Lakers than Kobe at his best but it's the Mamba who will unjustly go down on the top 10 lists if the Lakers pull out their 5th championship with the snake.
So, who wins? The Lakers have been pretty locked in and I feel I've spent the last 2 years waiting in vain for someone to capitalize on my keys to beating them. They are again: Handle the Lakers superior size (handle defined as, not be annihilated), exploit Derek Fisher, have someone who can make Kobe work hard for shots and/or draw him into an inefficient alpha contest.
Phoenix couldn't handle the Lakers' size and Gasol shot something like 7,000% against their frontcourt. The Thunder couldn't quite handle the size either, and Durant ended up shooting more inefficiently than Kobe after the Lakers ditched Shaq . The Celtics have 3 reknowned low-post defenders in Rasheed, Perkins and Garnett. They have the best point guard in the playoffs and they have Paul Pierce, Tony and Ray Allen to throw at Kobe.
I'll go for it one more time and predict Boston to stamp out the snake. Their team defense already handled LeBron James, the degree of difficulty only goes down from there.
Dick brought up the national recruiting rankings with the overall point being that Texas is in great shape. I'll link again to the Scout rankings which suggest that all the beard-pulling regarding OL recruiting was premature. I suspect that the current young talent of Walters, Snow, Ashcraft and Kelly combined with the incoming Greenlea, Flowers and Westerman paired with a zone-running scheme that actually allows for double-teams may make McWhorter look like a genius again.
If it doesn't than they had better fire him.
Very strong column on the basketball squad's upcoming offseason from Trips. Would I be right in guessing that it's not okay that I haven't seen Bull Durham?
Scipio's book is the sort that every Longhorn fan would want on their coffee table. Sort of a "Book of basketball" for Texas football that is well-suited to heavily repeated readings of various sections. I don't really even know how to qualify the top plays but many of the championship ones probably don't rank as high in the collective memory which I feel this book is intended to capture.
Certainly Vince strolling into the end-zone is your no. 1. Many of the big plays etched in my mind are negative, such as Roy Williams illegal leap or most of the 2001 Big 12 championship game. I'm guessing those won't be included...
I'm know many of these have been suggested but for me I recall from recent years:
The end of Bomar: Many plays in the 2005 RRS were cathartic but this one was particularly powerful because it was a crushing blow induced by a turnover which hs been true of so many big plays in the Stoops v. Brown era. Up to this point though they were all negative.
Shipley's return 2008: There were a few ghosts left that the White Ghost busted when he brought Texas back into the game with this score. It was a reminder that Texas now possessed teams that knew the answer to the Texas! chant.
Everything Vince did.
McCoy fumbles against Missouri, picks it up and throws a first down: I saw this one live and the impression it made was essentially, "you cannot stop this guy right now." This might be my pick for capturing the strength of the Colt McCoy offenses the last 2 years. or...
Shipley takes a short toss over the middle deep aided by a shattering Quan block: You know what I'm talking about.
Jamaal Charles to the house: If you feel the need to include one of the fastest 'horns ever I would pick either his 80 yard run on OU or the one where he split OSU defenders in that dramatic comeback.
Major comes in for Simms and immediately throws a 78 yard bomb to BJ Johnson in the 2001 Big 12 title game: I think this one sums up the feelings of the fan who perceived great injustice at Chris' ascension over the major. Whether that's something the book should chronicle is another matter.
That's probably enough words for now, I'll think of more later.