Archives for posts with tag: Boston Marathon

It’s amazing how different college basketball’s tournament is from its pro hoops version.  While the NCAA Tournament is a single elimination sprint–most of which is squeezed in over three weekends–the NBA’s four round marathon stretches out over three months.  Where every little variable comes into play during the Big Dance…the slow waltz usually comes down to talent and focus.  Instead of having to prepare for a team’s zone press or a player you’ve never seen on the floor, teams get opponents they’ve met at least twice during the regular season up to seven straight times.  Sometimes schemes and wrinkles do come into play…but more often than not talent wins out.

 

The Wizards are trying to take a 2-0 series lead over Chicago this evening.  They haven’t led in any series 2-0 since 1982 when first round series were best of three…and haven’t led 2-0 in a best of seven series lead since 1975 (Eastern Conference Finals against Boston–they’d win 4-2 before getting swept by Golden State in the NBA Finals).  Coach Randy Wittman was a freshman at Indianapolis Ben Davis High School that spring…

 

“Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence”.  Let the record show the Wizards rallied from a 2-0 deficit to the Bulls in the 2005 first round (oh the days of Gilbert Arenas)…but that was after Chicago won games one and two in the windy city.  Rarely does a team bounce back after starting 0-2 at home.  While it’s unlikely Nene will duplicate his 24 points and 8 rebounds from Game 1…Bradley Beal and John Wall will likely shoot better than a combined 7-for-25.  Can they continue to dominate defensively (held Bulls to 42%FG, 5-20 from 3 pt range)?  The dance continues against a coach respected for being a master tactician in Tom Thibodeau (no truth to the rumor he switches spelling his name to “Thom Tibodeau” after losses to gain an edge).

 

 

April is “anomaly or trend” month in baseball– because there are 162 games in a regular season a team’s highs and lows are always amplified in the first month.  It’s natural because as opposed to a hot streak or slump in July or August, there’s no previous body of work that season to use as a base.  Tyler Clippard’s less than ideal April saw the setup man allow 4 runs in the 8th inning of Monday’s loss to the Angels.  He’s been solid in that role before and the idea is not to panic this early…but when does an occurance become a trend?  Same case with Ian Desmond–the shortstop leads the majors in errors at his position (9 in 20 games) and committed two in the 8th last night (the first one jumpstarting the 4-run inning for the Angels).  Do you give Desmond a day off to clear his head?  Do you move Drew Storen into the 8th inning role to give the bullpen another late option?  Right now Manager Matt Williams is sticking with both in their current roles… and just like his aggressive base running has cost the team in some short-term situations, one has to buy into the longterm focus.

 

Boston Stronger– the city ran its annual Marathon yesterday…and for the first time since 1983 an American won.  Forgive me for completely forgetting Greg Meyer…but I thought Alberto Salazar was the last US runner to win in Beantown.  Meb Keflezighi finished first while Kenyan Rita Jeptoo set a women’s course record.  Clarksville, Maryland resident Tatyana McFadden won the women’s wheelchair division–on her birthday.  But the biggest winner was a city trying to heal itself one year after it was turned upside-down.  Patriot’s Day celebrates not just the birth of a nation but how a group of people banded together to claim their home–and it was nice to see the city of Boston stand proud once again.

I grew up an hour north of Boston.  I’ve covered the Marathon.  My sister was on the same block as the explosions yesterday…and my cousin’s wife was at the finish line with her 1 and 3 year old until a half hour before the blasts.  One reason why I fell into sports journalism is that it’s fun…aka the toy department… and I can try to be mildly amusing when talking about Toronto playing Tampa Bay by saying “You can call them Rays, you can call them Jays”.  Again, the focus is more on mild than amusing.  But one can’t be sarcastic about train accidents, trials or war.  I’m the comedic relief.  It’s tough when the nasty world invades my own…I was covering Otto Porter Jr’s announcement he was headed to the NBA when the Marathon went from sporting spectacle to a day of disaster.  I scrambled to reach my sister and although she was safe she was understandably shaken.  I’ve heard her happy and sad over the years–but never in terror…and as a big brother that shook the hell out of me.  I feel for the victims.  I’m happy friends and family are safe.  And I hope justice comes in finding who’s responsible for this.  Now it’s time for another press conference (Maryland’s Alex Len going pro)…and afternoon drive updates on WTOP, where I try to be mildly amusing.  To paraphrase Lorne Michaels and Rudy Guiliani, “Can I be funny?”–“Why start now?”.

Miami makes everything go down better– Seems as thought all the Nationals needed was a trip to South Beach to cure their recent ills…getting swept by Atlanta. It’s a long season, but it’s never good to be broomed at home by one of your division rivals.  Bullpen issues (13th in the National League in OBP, 14th SLG, 3rd in blown saves) catching injuries (Ramos on the shelf in a strange sense of deja vu) and the inability to beat playoff teams (1-5 against teams that made the 2013 postseason) have to temper whatever Nattitude was as full steam after the opening series sweep of the AAA Miami Marlins.  I almost want to downgrade the Marlins to a minor league city like “Dade County Dipsy Doodles” until they get their act together.  And with another three-spot against this mess of a franchise, the Marlins may be the worst thing for this club right now–giving the Nats false confidence when they still have a ways to go to get back to last year’s level.  If you win, so what– these are the Marlins.  And when you can’t beat the worst team in the league like Tuesday night, what are you to do?  A key early stretch is on the horizon–from April 22nd to May 2nd the Nats play 11 games against St. Louis, Cincinnati and Atlanta.  Brace yourselves.

Capital Blossoms– last week I compared the Capitals to the Cherry Blossoms in DC… blooming in early April before becoming an afterthought by mid-May.  Now they have been on a tear as of late… but how much of that is a byproduct of being in the softest division of the NHL (let the record show they are 14-3 against the Southeast Division)? Can this team compete effectively over a seven game series against a legitimately good team?  Tuesday’s 5-1 thumping of Toronto was the 10th out of division win for the team this season (10-14-2) in 26 games…how tired were the Maple Leafs after last night’s 2-0 win over New Jersey?  In a season that’s given us plenty of schedule quirks (like consecutive nights in Winnipeg)… the Caps have started a five game stretch against teams from Canada.  But more importantly they play their final three games at home–including a duel with second place Winnipeg Tuesday April 23rd (Jets trail the Caps by 4 points with 5 games remaining).  Eight straight wins… is there any room left on the bandwagon?

Moving Days– Sophomores Otto Porter, Jr. and Alex Len declare for the NBA one day apart while Georgetown and Maryland wish them well.  Coach John Thompson III wasn’t shocked:  “We weren’t caught off guard…we expected Otto to move on after this year.”  Coach Mark Turgeon knew it was time:  “Alex has been a pro since he set foot on campus…the way the practices, the way he takes care of himself”.  While the Hoyas and Terps would be much better next winter with Porter and Len, the lure of first round guaranteed money was too good to pass up.  Even if the 7-foot-1 Len turns out to be a project.  Even if Porter has trouble finding minutes or an ideal position for his skill set.  Each coach heralds their respective sophomore’s work ethic…which is a huge key in making the transition from college to pro basketball.  One hopes they find their way to solid organizations with non-cancerous locker rooms where they can learn, grow and thrive.

Masters– Ah, yes. Tiger’s drop and a 14 year old’s tardiness overshadowed the best weekend for an Australian since George Lazenby landed the role of James Bond.  Tiger tailed off after being in the hunt for most of the first two rounds. Was there golf karma in taking the longer drop? The US Open will be the fifth anniversary of Tiger’s most recent Major championship. Jack Nicklaus’ longest gap during his run?  He had two “droughts”– just under three years (1967-70) and just over five years (1980 PGA-1986 Masters).  One feels it’s only a matter of time before Woods wins another and with conditioning what it is now there appears to be a larger window for him to win 4 or 5 more– but for every Lee Trevino that wins a PGA at 45, there’s a Tom Watson who stops winning majors at 33.  Oh– and congratulations to Adam Scott for winning the tournament.

Standing Pat–  Broadcast legend Pat Summerall passes away at 82.  The voice of the NFL on CBS and FOX called 16 Super Bowls for the two networks over four decades.  His booming voice dominated game opens (check them out on youtube)… and his economy of words made him the perfect complement to John Madden.  In 1981, Summerall and Vin Scully were competing for the #1 play-by-play job at CBS and while Scully painted better word pictures, Summerall didn’t bring the easel as much as set the stage for Madden’s “BOOM’s” and the telestrator.  He said more in five words than most said in fifteen.  I fell for the NFL of Summerall/Madden.  And he made announcing something a 13 year old want to dream about doing.