Hangover Sports Roundup
NFL Draft, Bulls lose Rose, Clippers shock the Grizzlies
While some football fans think the NFL Draft resembles the male version of “America's Next Top Model,” most cannot contain their excitement whenever they see the commissioner give his awkward handshake to the new recruits of the league.
The Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins took the suspense out of their first two picks in selecting Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III (respectively), but the draft still contained some surprises. Cleveland Browns General Manager Tom Heckert chose to overhaul the offense by selecting Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Oklahoma quarterback Brandon Weeden in the first round. Current Browns starting QB Colt McCoy showed some promise last season, but the Browns needed to make some power moves to make sure they’re no longer an afterthought. Another surprise was the Dallas Cowboys moving to sixth pick of the first round to select LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. Even though the Cowboys had to give up 14th and 45th overall picks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was a necessary sacrifice to ensure Dallas improve its much-criticized defense.
As for the University of New Mexico, no Lobos were selected in the draft, but three defensive players have signed free-agent deals to play at the next level. Leading the pack is Carmen Messina, who shockingly wasn't selected but signed a contract with the improved Detroit Lions. All-Mountain West safety honorable mention Bubba Forrest was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals and defensive end Jaymar Latchison used Twitter to state he signed a contract with the Green Bay Packers.
Chicago Bulls vs. Philadelphia Sixers
Everything was working perfectly for the Chicago Bulls in game one against the Philadelphia Sixers. The Bulls bench was performing well and the starters were showing why they were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Derrick Rose's triple double was almost in sight with 1:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. Then the unthinkable happen: Rose drove in the lane and tore his ACL. Pain and fear was written all over Rose's face as he was helped to the locker room. The Bulls went on to win game one, 103-91, but it seems their title hopes have all but disappeared. An 18-9 record without Derrick Rose in the regular season means Chicago has reacted well without their captain. Now its up to Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Richard Hamilton to step up and prove the Bulls are still a serious threat to win the title.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers
It was a party in Memphis as the Grizzlies had a dominate 27-point lead in game one. With the Clippers down by 21 in the fourth, head coach Vinny Del Negro removed point guard Chris Paul from the game. But Paul pleaded with Del Negro for one more shot to at least gain a moral victory. Instead, Paul had seven assists and hit two clutch free throws to take a 99-98 lead with 23.7 seconds left. Rudy Gay had a chance to be the hero but missed a fade-away jumper to give the Clippers the stunning victory. Now Los Angeles has stolen home court and the momentum of the series. To make matters worse, rumors have now heated up regarding tension between Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies have tons of potential and have good fundamental skills to make a respectable run in the playoffs. But if they can't put a stop to their issues, the Clippers will embarrass the Grizz.
Things Done Changed
Every time there's a seismic shift, things feel more important. And this year in the NBA, things feel important—like something is happening. Like a changing of the guard.
When the San Antonio Spurs were taken out by the upstart Memphis Grizzlies, it was clear that the times they are a'changing. The Boston Celtics are still clinging to life— thanks to a one-armed Rajon Rondo—but their title window has been limited to "only this year" regardless of what year it is, and despite the fact that the pundits said the same thing last year. Finally, with the sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers by the Dallas Mavericks, the icing's on the cake and the writing's on the wall.
There can be no doubt about playoffs where the Atlanta Hawks refuse to bow to the best-
The coronation of Derrick Rose as MVP was a nice nod to the coming youth movement. But Rose has already been acknowledged as a high school prospect and as an elite college player who took his team to the promised land—even if they fell short, and that run has since been negated. When he said that he wanted MVP his rookie year, people looked at him like he was crazy. No one is now. But Rose has never been the ringleader of this movement—that honor falls to Kevin Durant. As the youngest scoring champion in the history of the league—and the fresh, smiling face of the Thunder—he was supposed to be the one. And he still might be.
But he'll have to get past Tony Allen, Marc Gasol and—most of all—Zach Randolph if he wants to continue his assault on the league. With the Grizz taking the fight right to the jaws of the Thunder and the Hawks battling the Bulls like no one expected, it's clear that the league is shifting right from under the feet of those who were privileged to come before, and even more quickly from those who just assumed they got next.
"Who got next?" is a persistent question in basketball. If you keep winning, you get to keep playing. You see the faces across from you shift, and you don't really care—you don't take time to honestly evaluate the opposition because it doesn't matter. All that matters is the fact that you're winning. Your time is now. But sooner, rather than later—because time bows to no man, woman or team—you will slip. The Spurs, Lakers and maybe the Celtics are learning that lesson now. And when you do slip, as they have (or will), it can be disorienting to look at the face of the team that beat you. You might find yourself wondering, "Who is this? How did they get here? How did they get me?"
But by that point, it's too late.
The NBA Playoffs have kicked off with a bang and it's time to unleash your liberated fandom. The games started off with what some are calling the best NBA weekend ever— although The Basketball Jones wonder how you can qualify that—and have continued to spill over in complete madness.
Over the weekend, in the Western Conference both the No. 1 seed and the No. 2 seed lost their first games. There were indications that it would be this crazy when the boring game that everyone was talking smack about turned into an almost-instant classic.
On Tuesday night, Carmelo Anthony decided to take things to a whole new level by scoring 42 points in a noble effort to keep the New York Knicks afloat. It didn't work. But it made for one of the most entertaining games in a postseason that's been filled with them.
The time has come to declare that if you're not watching this season of basketball—and especially now, if you're not watching this postseason of NBA—you're clearly not a fan of basketball. There are always arguments made about whether the NCAA or the NBA is a better product, but putting that arguement aside one can not deny the quality of play thus far has been far beyond what fans even had a right to expect.
The righteous anger of Denver, with the drama surrounding Anthony all season, has been galvanized since the trade. They're playing out of their heads against an Oklahoma City Thunder team that some claim is ready to take that next step—all the way to the Finals.
On the other side of the bracket, no one expected the Chicago Bulls to be this good when the season started. But now that it's finished, and the Bulls had the best record in the league, the weight of expectations has been foisted upon them. The struggles that presumptive-MVP Derrick Rose and his team are having with the Indiana Pacers do not bode well for the other young gun team. (It'd be more than bizarre, but a little apropos, at least, if the Bulls were to meet the Thunder in the 2011 NBA Finals.)
Dirk Nowitzki was mentioned early in the season as a possible MVP candidate, but then his team merely did what it's done for the last 12 years straight: Win more than 50 games in pretty convincing fashion, despite a host of injuries. He's roared back to life (along with the old man swag of Jason Kidd) for the playoffs and the Dallas Mavericks look to be a tough out for anyone, much less the (seemingly, at this point) over-matched Portland Trailblazers.
This post-season is reaffirming the notion that this season was (and is) one for the ages. With the worry of a lockout looming over everyone's heads (the players, the owners, and, most of all, the fans), this feels a little bit like insurance. If the building burns down, at least we'll have memories of that one last rager of a party.