Month: June 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

2013 NBA Draft

My first blog post, on the first version of this site, ten years ago was a Bill Simmons-like breakdown of the 2003 NBA Draft. Now, as I watch the 2013 draft, Bill Simmons is manning the ESPN table with Reece Davis, Jalen Rose, and Jay Bilas. Does that qualify as coming full circle?

I won’t mince words: this is a shitty draft. I’m biased about one of these guys, but I think there are two safe picks in this draft: Ben McLemore and Otto Porter. I don’t know that either of them will be superstars, but each will be very solid pros with a ceiling of an All-Star. Beyond them, there are some nice players who can fill roles, but there aren’t a bunch of stars.

So here goes. As has happened most years since I became a father, I was not able to watch the entire draft. But thanks to an incident I’ll share details of later in this post, I had a solid 45 minute window to watch the beginning of the draft.

1 – Anthony Bennett, Cleveland. WHOA! I mean, holy shit! Who saw this coming? I think Nerlens Noel is a bust waiting to happen, so good move to avoid that disaster. And Bennett has some serious upside, although I don’t see him as ever being a big star. But with Kyrie Irving already in the fold, and the dream of re-signing LeBron next summer simmering, Bennett feels like a nice piece to add. And let’s not forget, building for the future isn’t just about getting LBJ. I think the odds are maybe 10% that LeBron decides to go home next year. If that 90% comes to pass, there will still be plenty of other free agent talent that can look at Cleveland’s roster and think, “That’s a nice team that I can make a difference with.”

Highest drafted Canadian ever, stealing Andrew Wiggins’ thunder. Nice of Bennett to throw the shout out to Wiggs, though.

2 – Victor Oladipo, Orlando. Officially the most fun draft ever after only two picks! Great energy in the crowd as the New Yorkers realize something crazy is going on. I love Victor, but I think people are giving him too much love. That said, if anyone in this draft surprises people by blowing away their expectations, it’s him. Even when he’s picked second. I think his odds of being a bust are ~20%, but his odds of being a breakout star are ~10%. That in-between leaves you a defensive stopper who can guard all three perimeter positions and will get better offensively as he rounds out his game. He’s going to be a Bruce Bowen-type player who learns how to spot up on one end of the court and plays manic D on the other.

3 – Otto Porter, Washington. Very good pick and the (semi)-local player they wanted. Long, athletic, can shoot and defend. A nice piece for a team that suddenly has a decent core of perimeter players.

4 – Cody Zeller, Charlotte. WHAT?!?! What the hell is going on here? Wasn’t he supposed to go like #15 or something? Seriously, Cody got a bad rap late in the season when Big 10 coaches, who had seen him for two years, knew how to attack his weaknesses. I think he’ll be a decent player, provided they keep him out of the low post where he’ll get eaten up in the NBA.

More importantly, McLemore avoids Charlotte! And with two Hoosiers in the top five, Tom Crean immediately begins texting recruits making sure they know how he turned them into lottery picks.1

Worth noting: ninth-straight draft a former Indiana high school player has been picked in the first round.

5 – Alex Len, Phoenix. Man, Noel must have pissed some people off in his interviews and workouts. Shitty draft, so I can’t say this is a shitty pick. Seems kinda stretchy, though.

LeBron and Aaron Rogers just told people on Twitter to wake up on McLemore. I’m trying to tell you…

6 – Nerlens Noel, New Orleans. He had to go at some point, right? Like I said, I think he’s a bust. I’m not holding his freak injury against him. But I look at him and I don’t see a toolsy guy who is going to develop into a franchise cornerstone. He’s a more athletic Jeff Withey, someone who will block a few shots, grab a few rebounds, and that’s it. Perhaps suffering the indignity of sitting through six whole picks before he heard his name will light a fire under him and he’ll prove me wrong. I’ll start the rumors: the inevitable happens and something naughty comes up at Kentucky, Calipari takes the New Orleans job to avoid NCAA sanctions, and gets to coach Noel and Anthony Davis. (Aww, Noel’s rights traded to Philly, so my dream scenario of Cal’s triumphant return to the NBA won’t work out.)

7 – Ben McLemore, Sacramento. There it is! GREAT pick! Well, except for the reality that the Kings have been a mess for years and the first question for any draft pick that goes there is, “Will the idiots who are already there ruin him?” Perhaps things are changing in Sacto, though, with the new ownership and recommitment from the city. I sure hope so because Ben needs a steady, mature mentor.

As I’ve written all year, B-Mac never has been, and never will, be an alpha dog. But he’s so skilled and level-headed that he’s the ideal player to compliment a star. Unfortunately for Sacramento, they don’t have that other star right now. The bigger question about Ben is can he grow his offensive game so that he can put the ball on the deck and create his own shot. The good thing is that is something that can be taught/learned through practice. And he seems like a guy who is willing to put the time in to please those around him. Plus he has that beautiful, perfect jump shot, which is something you can not teach. A pretty solid base to work with. At worst he’s a shooting specialist for 10 years. But if it works out, he’s a second-tier star for just as long.

(So here’s where I stopped watching. Just before the draft began there was a big parental meltdown that ended with all three girls being sent to their rooms and dad opening an early beer and heading to the basement to watch the draft. That was about 45 minutes or so before McLemore got picked and I hadn’t heard a peep out of them. So I went upstairs to check on them. Each one was sitting quietly in their room, waiting to be dismissed from their (extended) time outs. First damn time all day they listened to me, but they picked the right spot to do it. Even better, C. and L. made cards for me saying they were “sorre fore being bad.” Awwwwww. Almost made up for the day of mayhem unleashed on me and the Father Of The Year clinching tirade I launched on them at about 7:20.)

Sadly I missed Boston’s pick of Lucas Nogueira, which was one of the great moments in draft history.

23 – Solomon Hill, Indiana. In a very shallow draft, there’s not much value left. Seems like a solid “take a flyer” pick. Maybe he pans out, but there’s no real loss if he doesn’t. Certainly no worse than their first pick last year, Miles Plumlee. Or Ben Fucking Hansbrough, who somehow kept a roster spot all last season. Speaking of the Hansbrough brothers, I bet the Pacers were pissed Brooklyn took Mason Plumlee at 22. They were so close to having both the Hansbrough and Plumlee brothers on one NBA roster!

I was kind of hoping they would take Rudy Gobert, the 7’2” Frenchman, here. They don’t need another big to back up Roy Hibbert right now. But if Gobert spends a couple more years in Europe, he can develop then come play a year or two behind Hibbert and be ready to take over for him when his contract runs out. Plus it’s fun to say Hibbert and Gobert together, even if Gobert is pronounced go-BEAR. Or Tony Mitchell would have been nice as an athletic body behind David West. But, again, shitty draft. You can’t complain much about who get selected here.

39 – Jeff Withey, Portland. Shame he fell and now has to work for that multi-year deal. But as limited as he is, it makes sense that no one wanted to commit three years to him without seeing him in the summer leagues, training camp, and even the regular season before extending him.

There are the important picks. Other thoughts on the night:

Other than his five-minute outburst against KU, I love Trey Burke. I know he’s small and not super athletic. But I was surprised he fell as far as he did.

David Stern’s final draft was full of laughs and silly moments. It was funny as he egged the crowd on to boo him more, but it got a little old when he did it before every pick. I guess when it’s your final draft, and you’re the commish, you’re allowed to milk it. Bringing Hakeem Olajuwon2 out to honor his final draft announcement was kind of cool, but also took away from the draft a little. Why not do that before the draft officially began? Maybe it was just because pick Nemanja Nedovic wasn’t there and they went into Stern’s valedictory right away, but the timing seemed a little disrespectful to the current draftees.

Shane Battier is a smart guy, and will no doubt do well in TV when he retires. But his turn as the first interviewer of new picks was pretty awkward. He seemed stiff, overly reliant on the same questions for each draftee3, and just out of his element. But Stuart Scott and others asked shitty questions in this same role for years, so it’s not like this is a moment of great journalism or deep conversations that Battier sullied with his newness.

On the other hand, I thought Simmons and Rose were great. They have a great rapport together from their podcasting exploits and had no reservations about bringing that chemistry and style to the draft studio. They kept it light while offering good insight. The loser in the deal was Jay Bilas, who for some reason seemed grumpy as the night went on. Perhaps it was because Reece Davis kept throwing questions to Simmons and Rose first and they would eat up all the time, leaving Bilas just a few seconds to get his comments in. But, for the most part, a pretty entertaining broadcast.

I loved Simmons honest reaction to the biggest news of the night, the massive Boston-New Jersey trade. While it had been rumored all day, when the first confirmations came through, he put on a stunned face for TV. And he did not fail to rip it, as he had done on Twitter all day, just because he was on TV or in an official NBA event. Sure, he was doing it all as a Boston fan, but it was good, honest TV.

I missed his little pissing match with Doc Rivers later in the night. But good for him for not backing off, although it’s easy to do that when he and Rivers aren’t actually speaking to each other but reacting to each other through an interviewer.

That C’s trade is huge. I’m bummed that Paul Pierce will not retire as a Celtic, but his legacy there is intact. It’s tough to imagine the Nets being good enough to knock off the Heat in 2014, but if LeBron leaves after next season, the complexion of the Eastern Conference changes and then you never know. So I’m pleased The Truth will have a couple more shots at another Finals appearance. As Simmons said, if Jason Kidd can limit Pierce’s minutes, he still has several good years left.

We don’t know who will be on the clock first next June, but the countdown to grab Andrew Wiggins has officially begin.

  1. Worth noting: I’m not a Crean fan. Only slightly less insufferable than John Calipari. I have no ill-will towards IU. I wish they’d hurry up and find a reason to can Crean, hire Brad Stephens, and then I can be happy when they are successful. 
  2. I love that my spell checked didn’t trip over Hakeem Olajuwon. 
  3. “You were very close to Coach X. So, how important is he to you?” 


The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First – Jonah Keri.

It is too tempting, and too easy, to call this Moneyball 2.0&. Where Michael Lewis examined how the Oakland Athletics built a winner on a meager budget through the use of (then) obscure, advanced statistical analysis, Keri details how the Tampa Rays went from MLB laughingstock to one of the best franchises in the game through their own innovative look at the MLB talent pool.

Sadly, the book just isn’t as good as Lewis’. Which is an unfair measure, as Lewis is an incredible reporter and writer. Keri seems a bit out of his element here. Although he’s written about finance and baseball for many national publications, his style strikes me as better suited to magazine articles, or lengthy essays in collections, than to book-length efforts. I didn’t like the flow or organization of the book.

That’s not to say it’s bad. It just isn’t as good as it could be, or the book it can’t help but be compared to.

Redshirts – John Scalzi.

Most of the time when I attempt to read science fiction I am disappointed. I just can’t get my brain to accept the assumptions required of a sci-fi novel. This was a big exception to that, though, and I enjoyed it as much as any sci-fi novel I’ve ever read.

Perhaps that is because this is a very gimmicky book. But gimmicky in a good way. The story is set 400 years in the future, as new recruits on a spaceship notice that a lot of things just aren’t right. The science of some of their projects makes no sense. Some crew members suffer incredible injuries in battles with alien life forms and miraculously recover. And, aside from a few core members of the crew, it seems like the rank and file of the crew get killed at disturbingly high rates when they go exploring new planets and abandoned space stations.

Turns out while they are living, breathing humans, through some weird wrinkle in time and space, all their actions are determined by the script of a 21st century television show. Guess what? They have to time travel back to 2010 to convince the writers of the show to stop offing everyone.

Which sounds pretty silly, or very stupid, depending on your perspective.

But Scalzi pulls it off. He’s a terrific writer and handles the problems his concept raises rather nicely. The core story is rather lean, checking in at just over 200 pages. There are three codas, though, that explore the aftermath of the interactions between the 25th and 21st century parties, one of which is tremendously touching.

The Trinity Six – Charles Cumming.

I’ve heard lots of praise for Cumming as one of the best espionage novelists going these days. Roughly 150 pages into this, I wondered what the fuss was for and if I was about to abandon another book. I forced myself to get through 30 more pages, just to give it one last chance. That was a wise decision. The book took off right around page 200 and didn’t stop until the very end.

It centers on Sam Gaddis, a British professor who gets sucked into one of the great, lost secrets of the Cold War: a high-level member of the British intelligence service first served as a spy for the Soviet Union before and during World War II and then flipped to act as a double agent until the fall of Communism. The retired agent, and those who came in contact with him, holds extremely embarrassing information about the current Russian president, and members of the Russian spy service are slowly, methodically wiping out each person who has knowledge of these secrets.

Gaddis stumbles through Europe, chasing clues and avoiding trouble with the help of a sympathetic agent back in London who saves his ass multiple times. The last 150+ pages absolutely crack with tension and action. There aren’t any great mysteries to be unspooled. Just page after page of terrific action and suspense.

King of Cuba – Cristina García.

Finally for this entry in the Reader’s Notebook, a terrific, farcical novel about two once powerful men dealing with the ends of their lives and the accompanying loss of respect from and influence over the people around them.

The two men in question are Fidel Castro, the aging dictator of Cuba, and Goyo Herrera, a rival of Castro’s from his pre-revolutionary days, who lives in a luxurious condo in Miami. The novel flips back-and-forth between the two men as they see the empires they built in younger days fall apart through the incompetence of those around them. Cuba is falling apart, and Castro views it not as a failure of his revolution, but because of the fall of the Soviet Union, the poor leadership of his younger brother, and a lack of faith by the Cuban people. For Herrera, his fortune is slipping away through the drug addictions of his son, the interference of his daughter, and unscrupulous contractors in New York who are ripping him off as they attempt to salvage the crumbling apartment building that provides his income. Meanwhile, they keep an eye on their respective fates. For Castro that means the inevitable plot against him that succeeds. For Herrera, it is being the man who finally puts a bullet in Castro’s head.

That all sounds kind of heavy. But García turns it into a hilarious, absurdist tale in which the oldest, frailest men are still the smartest and most powerful in any room, but no longer have the juice to bend people to their wills. Even their inevitable meeting goes awry, with each man managing to get both what he wants and be disappointed at the same time.

Finals Follow Up

I’m sure this will suffer a bit for having waited through the weekend to put them together, but some thoughts about LeBron and the Miami Heat winning the NBA title thursday night.

It was a lot to ask but still slightly disappointing that Game Seven didn’t live up to the standard set by Game Six. It wasn’t a blowout, but neither was it two heavyweights trading punches for 48 (or 53) minutes. There was tension, runs by both teams, and LeBron being huge as usual. But it seemed like the team that screwed up least would come out on top.

I was neutral through the series1, thus my thorough enjoyment of Game Six. But I do not get all the LeBron hate. I know, The Decision, blah blah blah. That was three years ago, he’s owned up to it being a dumb idea that what poorly executed, and the basketball gods served up some karma when they let they weaker Dallas Mavericks knock off the Heat in the Finals two years ago. I think he’s paid his bill, if one was even due.

I don’t understand why people let a poor public relations decision taint their view of LBJ so much. He has been about as close to model citizen as you can hope from a professional athlete/entertainer for his entire professional career. He is, by far, the best basketball player in the world right now. And he’s doing so in a way that no one has ever played the game before. You forget how ridiculous it is for a man his size to do the things he does on the court. Then ABC/ESPN shows a camera angle that puts his size in better perspective and I would be shocked that a guy as big as him was ripping around the court like a 6-foot point guard. Or jumping around/over other freakish athletes like they’re little kids. He’s equal parts Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, and Dennis Rodman. He is just on a completely different level than any elite player in the history of the game.

What makes LeBron truly special, though, is that you would absolutely want your kid to be like him. At least on the court2. Compare him to Michael Jordan, whose pathological need to win made him respected and feared but never loved by those around him3. Or Kobe Bryant, who was generally decent off-the-court4; but often a dick on it without any of MJ’s saving graces. LeBron manages to be both the best player and a great teammate. He gets slagged for not being selfish in crunch time, especially early in his career. But his game has always been about creating the best shot for his team. And if that means he passes to a guy with a better shot who is capable of hitting it, he will make that pass.

He has adjusted his game a little in recent years, cranking up the alpha dog elements a little. But he’s still a far better teammate than MJ or Kobe ever were. Sure, he’ll whine about calls from time-to-time, but show me an NBA superstar who doesn’t/hasn’t done the same. If those are the only flaws we’re finding in his game/makeup, we’re trying too damn hard to tear a man down instead of enjoying his sublime play.

It’s still too early to say whether LeBron will challenge Jordan as the greatest of All-Time. But he’s well on his way to at least getting his name in the conversation and has done so in a manner that is dramatically different than how MJ did it.

The other winter sport wrapped up last night as the Chicago Blackhawks scored two goals in 17 seconds to come back and beat the Boston Bruins for their second Stanley Cup in four years. I didn’t stay up to watch the end of the game but watched the highlights this morning. That ending was absolutely, utterly, completely insane. Hockey, when at its best, is an amazing sport. How about this nugget: since 2000, the Cup Finals have failed to go at least six games only twice. Well, not counting the year there were no Finals because of the dreaded labor dispute.

  1. I love LeBron and Mario, obviously, but dislike many of the other Heat players. I respect Duncan, Parker, and Popovich but have never had strong feelings either way about the Spurs. 
  2. As far as we know. I acknowledge he may have all kinds of skeletons in his closet. But they’re still hidden away and I won’t assume he is hiding something despicable/immoral that would drastically alter my opinion of him. 
  3. Granted, we thought MJ was pretty perfect when he was playing. So, maybe, perhaps, etc. in 20 years we’ll look back and say, "Man, LeBron wasn’t so great either, was he? 
  4. One major-ass exception, obvioulsy. 

Writing For Fun And Profit

All kinds of stuff going on today, not the least of which is another important mid-June anniversary that must be celebrated.1 I’ve been sitting on this magnificent ode to PNC Ballpark in Pittsburgh by Charles Pierce for a couple weeks. It seems like the perfect day to share it.

If you offered me a first-class ticket to a decent paying career in any field, after turning down the unrealistic options,2 I would likely select being a sportswriter. I’m not talking about doing what I do now, part-time coverage of high school sports. Or even as a beat reporter for a professional team for a major media outlet. I’m talking a platform where I could write columns about whatever events tickled my fancy that would be published for thousands to see. I’m talking Joe Posnanski, Bill Simmons, Charles Pierce territory.

It’s pieces like this that just floor me. I mean, I think I could go to Pittsburgh, or any other wonderful ballpark/arena, and capture the essence of the place in an article/column. But to do it like Pierce does, man, that’s magic right there and beyond whatever skills I have.

So go read it.

You should always walk to this ballpark…It’s a reminder of the fact that, long ago, people built cities because there were rivers there, and of why they did that, and of why the immigrants came to work there, of how hard they fought for their livelihoods and their dignity, and what they built along the rivers, and how they came to identify themselves as Americans so often by an allegiance to what went on in the ballparks.

<a href=’’>Pittsburgh and Its Ballpark: An Appreciation</a>

  1. This time it’s my birth. 
  2. Professional athlete, porn star named Buck Naked which is already taken, of course), rock star, or modern version of Casey Kasem 

Thank You Basketball Gods

I’m dragging a little but this morning thanks to that epic Game Six of the NBA Finals last night.

In case you missed it, San Antonio controlled the first 36 minutes of the game wonderfully. They stretched out leads, responded to Miami runs, and seemed to be utterly in control of the game as it went to the final quarter. Late in the third period Tony Parker missed an open baseline jumper from about 18 feet that would have put the Spurs up 14. As his ball arced through the air, it felt like the game was in the balance. It rimmed out and Miami had life.

They took advantage of it.

The Heat flipped the script and dominated the first five-plus minutes of the fourth quarter, building a five-point lead with about 90 seconds to play. Then Parker hit a ridiculous, step-back three and a soft shot in the lane to tie it up. Miami now looked cooked, as they proceeded to cough the ball up on two straight possessions and let the Spurs build their own five-point lead.

A couple missed free throws left the door open for Miami,1 and Ray Allen drilled a magnificent, difficult, corner three to send the game to overtime.

Wow, what a finish to regulation.

Overtime got sloppy and ugly as both teams did their best to not win until Ray Ray knocked down the clinching free throws.

But it was a hell of a game.

Tim Duncan turned back the clock for the first three quarters, dominating the game through his scoring and board work. Kawhi Leonard was fantastic, including his epic dunk over Mike Miller in the first half. Boris Diaw did as good a job frustrating LeBron James as any defender has done this year. But Ginobili sucked all night after being brilliant in game five, and Parker was shaky in some big moments.

LeBron was far from his best, but kicked it into a higher gear to fuel the fourth quarter comeback. Aside from Mario Chalmers’ big night, LBJ got very little help until the fourth quarter. Then D-Wade hit a few big shots, Ray Ray got clutch, and Chris Bosh of all people, came up huge on several key possessions.

It hasn’t been a great series. Game One went down to the last seconds and was won on a ridiculous2 shot by Parker. Last night was a hell of a lot of fun for the casual fan. In between were four games that weren’t close late. But the craziness of Game Six sets us up for a Game Seven that is full of promise. Can the Spurs rebound after being so close and get Timmy and Pop their fifth titles? Can LeBron get help from more than one teammate to claim his second-straight ring?

For sports writers, the ideal outcome is San Antonio winning a hard-fought game. Then they can write about both the understated, oft ignored genius of Duncan and another failure by LeBron. But for us unaligned fans, I’m just hoping for another game that goes down to the final seconds in which both Duncan and James have the game in their hands at the end.

  1. Why yes I did send my buddy E-bro in the ATX a message that simply said “Elijah” when Manu Ginobli missed the first of two free throws that could have put the game away. Ray Allen’s shot was from a different spot, but it felt awfully similar to Trey Burke’s last March. 
  2. Lucky. 

Making Poor Choices

I’ve shared before how C. is an impulsive child prone to get herself into trouble when something shiny grabs her attention and pushes all reasonable thought from her brain. Here is the story of her latest impulsive moment.

We were entertaining friends a few weeks back and C. was teamed up with one of her seven-year-old buddies. The parents were in one room and the kids scattered about the house. Littered through the kitchen were several hours’ worth of empty cans and bottles and the tops that had originally been on them. C. and her buddy decided they wanted to gather up all the bottle caps and keep them as a “collection”. They told us of their plan, we said fine, and they disappeared while we went back to our conversations.

A while later I walked through the kitchen and noticed the recycle can had an awful lot of water bottles in it. &quot;Have we really drank that much water?&quot; I asked myself. I made a mental note to investigate later but got back to more important matters like taking our guests fresh drinks.

Soon C. and her pal came joined us, carrying a ziplock bag that was loaded with bottle caps. Way more than we had produced that evening, even with guests. Time to investigate.

Sure enough, something shiny had caught C.’s attention. The girls had gotten into a new case of bottled water, taken 20 or so to the kitchen sink, emptied them, recycled the bottles, and then added the caps to their bag. Which, you know, made perfect sense to them because we did give them permission to collect bottle caps. Why not save themselves the wait of several days while we drank through nearly a case of water and just cut out the middlemen?

When we confronted them about their decision, they gave us looks like we were absolutely insane for not understanding their logic and being upset with them. Which I guess is about right for seven-year-olds. It sure feels like we should be beyond this, though.

Our neighbors often tell their kids to be sure they’re making good choices. This was a not a good choice night for C. and her buddy.

It’s Been Such A Long Time

Mid-June is always busy with remembrances large and small here in Casa de B. June 2013 is extra special, as it marks the tenth anniversary of many of these events.

Last Thursday, for example, was the tenth anniversary of S. graduating from residency. That’s not one we celebrate but, as it was a part of a huge weekend ten years ago, we did acknowledge it this year.

Then Friday was our (first) tenth anniversary.1 We don’t make a big deal out of anniversaries, so we didn’t really have a celebration planned. But thanks to our neighbors mentioning they had a sitter for a couple hours and one of my sisters-in-law stepping up to watch our girls, we were able to duck out for an impromptu dinner with them.

And ten years ago tonight we hopped into our cars, drove east for eight hours, and at roughly 2:00 AM the next morning, pulled into the driveway of our home for the first time as owners.

A lot of shit happened in a five day span in June 2003.

But the biggest anniversary is still a little over a week away. June 27, 2003 was the first official post at this site’s first home. None of your lives have been the same since then, have they?

Time really does fly. In some ways that doesn’t seem like so very long ago, as though we left the house for a few busy hours, came home, and suddenly we had three kids, a couple career changes, and were in our 40s. But when I pause to consider who I was back in June 2003 and compare that to who I am today, I think, &quot;Did all of that really happen in just ten years?&quot; I don’t think I look dramatically different than I did in 20032 but I am, in fact, a completely different person. Which is kind of mind blowing.

We’re not the only ones in our group of friends celebrating ten years of marriage this summer, so I’m sure several of you are going through the same kinds of reflections. So happy anniversaries to all of you. It’s hard to believe what we’ve done, isn’t it?

  1. For those new to our family history, we had a small wedding in June that knocked out our legal and church requirements. A month later, after we had moved, we fulfilled the party with friends requirement with a second ceremony. Of course we are still one event shy of our friends the B’s, who had three wedding events in the spring of 2002. 
  2. Now that I’ve grown my hair back and after dropping those 30 dad lbs. two years ago. 

Sports Notes

A few assorted sports notes.

Last weekend was a big weekend for people around me who suddenly become big fans of sports they don’t usually follow. For us Jayhawks, our women’s track team won the national championship, the first-ever national title for a women’s team from KU. A big part of their championship was Lindsay Vollmer’s solo national title in the heptathlon, another KU first.

Locally, IU advanced to their first-ever College World Series by going to Tallahassee and winning two straight games over host Florida State.

I was following the track action pretty closely all three days of the meet, including using a couple sites that projected points for future events so you could plot out how the team competition might shake out as events went final. Saturday I had ESPNU on to watch the action live.1 Which made this pretty much the first time I paid attention to track and field since last summer’s Olympics and likely until the next summer games.2 I’m sure there were plenty of Hoosier alums and fans around here that never pay attention to college baseball but were suddenly doing so with great zeal last weekend, too.

Go ahead, mock me for my sudden interest in college track and field. I’ve certainly made fun of friends who, for example, spent most of a visit to Indianapolis trying to follow the NCAA golf championships from afar.3 But, as David Puddy said, you gotta support your team.

Rock Chalk, bitches!

A girl I covered this season won the state singles tennis championship last weekend. I didn’t cover the finals, but still followed her match online as well. It’s pretty cool to see kids I’ve watched all season do great things when the state tournament rolls around.

I wish I could say I’ve paid close attention to the NBA Finals. I have not, though. Thus I’m a little surprised to see that San Antonio blew out the Heat last night and now own a 2-1 lead in the series. How the eff is that collection of old men containing the Fighting LeBrons? I suppose that means LeBron is getting no help at all and with the Spurs able to key on him, he can’t get loose either. Cue the columns about how he’s overrated, will never be as good as Kobe or Jordan, and how the Big Three experiment is a complete failure.

Another random event I followed last week was the epic semifinal in the French Open between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. I don’t watch nearly as much tennis as I once did, but it seems like when I do some combination of Nadal, Djokovic, and Roger Federer are offering up a match that you have to drop everything you’re doing to watch. I missed Serena Williams’ amazing run to her title, which I need to do better about. We signed the girls up for tennis lessons that begin in two weeks, so Wimbledon seems like a good excuse to sit around the TV for hours together each morning.

I don’t pay attention to the Royals for three weeks and when I turn on a game last night, their six-game winning streak ends. Seems about right. Someone wake me when Hosmer and Moustakas have a decent week.4

  1. Which was an interesting exercise in creating drama that wasn’t there. If you had Twitter up, or were following one of several newspaper sites that had live scoring, you knew that KU clinched the team title around 5:50 EDT. But ESPNU had over an hour of action to still cover, so kept suggesting that Oregon, LSU, and Texas A&amp;M still had a chance to win. Like I said, interesting. 
  2. Well, I did follow the NCAA Indoor meet a couple months ago, where KU finished second. But I didn’t do so nearly closely. 
  3. What up, Billy?!?! Worth noting it’s much easier to follow lower profile events now than it was five or six years ago thanks to Twitter. 
  4. Hosmer’s recent tick up doesn’t count. Still no power. 

Farewell To The Kidd

I realized Saturday, as I was flipping through the latest Sports Illustrated, that I really should have written something about the retirements of Jason Kidd and Grant Hill. There aren’t many professional athletes still playing who were in college at the same time I was, and these were two of the very best to grace the game while I was a student.1

Grant Hill was the Duke player everyone secretly liked. While most of his teammates seemed like pampered pricks, he always seemed cool and calm and confident without being cocky. He handled himself perfectly on-and-off the court through his entire career. As much as I’ve hated seeing it rerun for the past 22 years, his impossible catch-and-dunk against KU in the 1991 title game was one of the signature moments of college hoops in the ‘90s.

But Jason Kidd was something else. He’s the first ultra-hyped high school recruit I remember. I’m sure there were others before him, but he was the first player I began reading about when he was just 16, when people were already saying he would change the game. I remember the excitement when he announced that he would take a trip to visit KU, and the legend that grew from how he chose a college2. There was his spectacular play in the 1992 tournament, leading Cal past Hill and Duke in the second round before they fell to KU in the Sweet 16.

My biggest J-Kidd memory, though, came the next fall. He returned to Cal for his sophomore year and brought the #6 Bears team to Lawrence for a preseason NIT game. I’m pretty sure it was a Saturday night, and it was a late start, so the crowd was extra pumped. He had fellow future pro Lamond Murray running with him while KU had a couple older role players (Steve Woodberry and Richard Scott notably) and a bunch of young pups (Jacque Vaughn, Scot Pollard, and Nick Proud, who would have his only big game in his very short KU career that night3). KU got up big early, but Cal cut the lead as Kidd began to take the KU defense apart.

On one sequence in the second half, Kidd took the ball in the backcourt and raced forward. Near half court, he did a 360 to spin around Jacque Vaughn who attempted to reach in for a steal. Kidd continued to the lane, did another 360 to avoid Scott, and dished to Murray for a dunk. It was a ridiculous, unbelievable, ‘who can do that?’ play. And he made it look easy.

Also significant was the hoops fashion trend Kidd launched that night. He began the game with a baggy t-shirt under his jersey that was apparently too baggy and bothered him. At halftime he cut only the right sleeve off to free his shooting arm and played the second half with one bare arm, one covered by the shirt. He continued that look in future games and soon kids all over the country were sporting the one bare arm, one covered arm look.

KU won that night, rather easily as I recall. Kidd scored 22 points and handed out six assists, balanced by seven turnovers. But he made an impression only a few visiting players ever made on me, right there with Anthony Peeler’s 43 points or Randy Rutherford’s 45.

Jason Kidd wasn’t as smooth with the media or as good-mannered off-the-court as Grant Hill was. But I will always remember him as one of the signature players in college basketball when I, too, was a college student.

  1. I realize with the length of my undergrad days that pulls in a lot of players. They still top the list. 
  2. Kidd shares his modern version of it here</a>. Back in the day, though, there were several versions floating around, each from the perspective of a school that came up short. 
  3. 12 points, four rebounds in five minutes. As I recall, they all came when Cal had cut the lead to less than ten and he helped re-extend it. He also tweaked his bad knee that night, only played more than ten minutes against a D1 opponent twice that season, and ended his college career in January after just 16 games. 

The Pool Is Open

We made a brief trip to the pool yesterday, our first visit this season. You may recall that last July 4 was the first time M. and C. jumped off a diving board. M., who is always cautious, took several minutes to get the courage up to take her first plunge, and only, finally jumped when I threatened to throw her off myself. C., of course, took right to it.

So I was interested to see how, mostly, M. did on her first trip in 2013. As soon as we got to the pool they both wanted to go straight to the board. I made them both show me that they could swim far enough to get from the middle of the pool to the side without help. Once they satisfied that requirement, I turned them loose. M. went right to the board, waited her turn, and not only jumped but made sure to let her friends know exactly what her jump was going to be and that they were watching her performance. She jumped, swam to the side, and went right back to the line.

I watched C. carefully. Although she did fine swimming on her own last year, this was her first time in a pool she couldn’t touch the bottom of in almost ten months. I didn’t want her freaking out when she couldn’t touch to get herself righted and swim to the side. I shouldn’t have worried. She did fine.

Both girls spent about 15 minutes going off the board over-and-over. I put L. in a floaty and played with her in the 5-foot water so we could keep an eye on the sisters. Which was weird. I mentioned how great it was during our spring break trip to just put the girls into a pool where they could all either touch or be safe with flotation devices on their own and watch from the side. This was like that only cranked up to 11. After making sure the big sisters could handle themselves in the deep end, I turned them loose and trusted both in them to be aware and be safe and in the lifeguards to be there if they got themselves into trouble.

Which is kind of a theme for my life. For nine years I’ve had to be on constant, careful alert. For the first time I’m able to relax that sense of vigilance a little. That’s true at the pool, when we go to a park, and just about any time we’re not in a large group of people and they can be free to roam on their own. I still have my head on a swivel, making sure I’m know where each girl is. But I don’t have to be right next to them, at least the two big sisters, guiding and supporting constantly. We’ve helped them learn to swim and given them instructions on how to be safe. They are old enough and skilled enough to not need me with them at all times.

I’m not done yet, but this is another sign this stage of my life is beginning to wind down.

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