Monday, April 30, 2007

On to things we can speak about with some measure of authority

While I understand Justin's absolute horror at the Kolb pick -- it was, simply, stunning (or: simply stunning; or: stunning, simply ... too many choices) -- I also think it's always a little crazy when fans start flying off the handle about draft picks before camp has even broken. Does this have the potential to be bad? Sure. But outsiders like us really know so little about draft prospects outside of what the talking heads tell us that it's virtually impossible to make informed criticism. Who knows? This Kolb kid could be perfectly suited for Reid's offense, and maybe they know something about Donovan that the rest of us don't. I'm not saying any of this is particularly likely, I'm just saying there isn't much beyond conjecture to go with here. So I'm going to take a pass on NFL Draft commentary.

What I do want to talk about is my new favorite sports franchise, The Golden State Warriors. Yes, my Warriors. I have inevitably become a fan of the Suns since I moved back to Phoenix, because there's no real reason not to; my love for the Pacers had more to do with Reggie Miller than it did the city or franchise as a whole, and living in the same city as a franchise this good and spectator-friendly is a little too much to resist. But the rub is that the Suns might be a little too good to captivate me, because I don't particularly gain any joy out of rooting for the bully. The Warriors, on the other hand, are like the Suns in every way except for two important exceptions:

1) They should not be beating anyone, particularly the Mavs; this is a team that barely made it into the Western Conference Playoffs, beating out luminaries like the T-Wolves and Clips for that honor;

2) This is by far the sloppiest, most street-cred-obsessed, blatantly anti-David Stern team ever assembled.

Honestly, tell me if there's one person on the Warriors you wouldn't take in a street fight? Have you seen Matt Barnes? My reflex has always been to back the "threatening" guys, if only because I get tired of the NBA's constant quest to pretend it's not a game that owes it's popularity en consummo to the street ball ethic and aesthetic. The quest began with the constant harping on AI's tats, and quickly extended to anyone who's not immediately appealing to corporate America's ideal of the grateful negro athlete. Sure, Carmelo might be an idiot, but at least he's somewhat genuine; in the span of two years and roughly 1,345 commercials, LeBron's gone from a marvel to just another sycophantic endorsement machine. Like it would be a crime if everyone didn't love him.

(Side note: Anyone else see A-Rod parallels popping up like crazy with LeBron? He's unquestionably one of the most unique and complete athletes, respective to his sport, we've ever seen. Each came into the pros as both extremely young and prodigiously talented, and hit the ground running. Both were serious contenders for the MVP Award by their second seasons. LeBron is likely to do Cleveland like A-Rod did Seattle. And both will end up, probably, being underappreciated when it's all said and done because they both come off as canned and disingenuous during public appearances, commercials, etc.)

The point is that my love of the Warriors has less to do with what they are than what they aren't. Yeah, I love Steve Nash, and Marion, and Raja, but those are the kinds of guys who wear sweater vests to post-game interviews. Amare might be the only Sun who could blend in with the Warriors, but even he's managed to tone it down a notch. Chuck learned the same lesson most of the Suns have learned: Phoenix isn't the kind of city that relishes the opportunity to witness the counter-culture. Remember the Stephon Marbury years for this franchise? Not many people in Phoenix do, either, because they stopped going to the fucking games, even though it remained a moderately competative and fairly fun-to-watch team in the bridge years between Jason "I done told Joumanna twice already" Kidd and Steve Nash, who's the most hardcore Canadian since Terry Fox, minus the prosthesis. But it's safe to say that Nash's bicep kiss in Game 2 was probably the most showing-out we've seen from anyone on this team all year.

Conversely, all the Warriors do is conclude frenetic fast breaks with wild shots, try to break defenders' ankles, and primp for the fans and cameras when they succeed. They're all attitude, and it's fucking great. It's even better that they're doing it all to the league's most annoying player, Dirk, whose general lack of human qualities has been put in clearer relief in this series. This guy was supposedly the leading MVP candidate? Please. He's as unwilling to grind as any superstar I've ever seen. The Warriors, on the other hand, are all heart. Contrary to what most commentators will tell you, you'll get about 10 times the hustle out of a kid from the streets (McGuire 2:17). The only exception to that rule is when they become so popular at a young age that the hangers-on tell them it's not worth it to try. But that's not the case with anyone on the Warriors; all these guys have been told, often multiple times, that they can't hack it. Davis, J. Rich, Pietrus, Barnes, Harrington, Jackson, et all., would tear their mothers' throats out if it meant they would get the respect they all think they deserve. Sure, that's not noble, but it makes for some seriously fun ball.

And, yes, I know this is like the 43rd team I've "liked." But it's the NBA; who gives a shit? I'll watch (and root for) anyone who does the complete opposite of what the Pistons and Spurs do.

To wrap things up, here's what today's TSTIHAD would have been:

Joe (Granger, IN): If it was your call, what would you do about the Cubs over crowded outfield?

SportsNation Steve Phillips: The Cubs outfield is a real situation in that they have a number of workable parts, none of which really work in the positions in which they are playing. If Pie can play at the major league level, then he has to play center. Then I would have Soriano in left and Jones and right. If Pie cannot hit in the majors right now, then they have to play Jones in center, Soriano in left, and Floyd and Merton in right. That configuration plays three outfielders out of position, but I still think it is better than putting Soriano in center. The bigger problem the Cubs have is that they would like to go back to a twelfth pitcher which would mean Pie or Merton goes to the minor leagues. Merton has proved he can hit and deserves to be there, but Pie is they're only true center-fielder. It is a real mess. My friend Steve Stone, with whom I worked games with at ESPN, compares the Cubs' outfield with playing a round of golf with three 7 Irons and two 3 woods. You have pieces that may work in certain situations but they do not work in every situation; it is tough to win that way.

Jerry (TX): Do you think the Giants should unload one or maybe two of their young pitching prospects to land some offense?

SportsNation Steve Phillips: No, I think that pitching and defense wins and they need to hold on to as much pitching as possible, because some of those young arms will need to go to the bullpen at some time this year. The Giants will score enough runs to win, the question is do they have the pitching to win. I think they will stay competitive all year, especially with the front end of their rotation. There is a lot of power potential in the line-up and they have some good "baseball players." I think you may see some impact this year with some of the good young pitchers they have.

Two straight Q&As, two completely and utterly horseshit answers. Beyond the fact that Phillips spells Matt Murton's name wrong three fucking times, he actually thinks that having three players playing out-of-position is better than having one. Then, to follow it up, he starts and answer with an incorrect truism ("pitching and defense wins"), and then states unequivocally that he does not actually follow baseball at all: The Giants are 27th in runs scored in the major leagues right now. Outside of Bonds, Durham and maybe Roberts, there isn't a hitter on the team who starts for any other NL West team. The "power potential" Phillips alludes to has amounted to 18 home runs (22nd in MLB) and a .390 team slugging percentage (20th). You can say a lot of things about the Giants: They are old, they are creepily former-Padre-heavy, they play in a gorgeous ballpark, they have exquisite gear. You cannot say they have power potential, because this is so clearly untrue that Michael Bloomberg has just tried to ban Steve Phillips chats for the public's protection.

However, Phillips did accurately note that the Giants have plenty of "baseball players," which is a relief for a team that usually fields a squad of "transgender marine biologists."

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