Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Page 2 Quickie: May 30, 2006
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
Dwyane Wade delivered the NBA shot of the year Monday night. Nothing else is even close.
(Haven't seen it? Click here, and watch the video in the upper right.)
Wade's twisting, turning, put-it-on-your-desktop-wallpaper layup wasn't just the most jaw-dropping move of the season.
It might very well have been the final stake in the heart of the Pistons.
Consider that Wade converted the drive to give Miami control of a tight game; the Pistons never recovered after Wade converted the plus-one free-throw to put the Heat up four, 65-61.
Perhaps the Pistons were as stunned as the rest of us by Wade's drive to the hoop.
Wade's layup also triggered a 12-point quarter for him, which capped a 31-point night and led the Heat to a 3-1 series lead.
(What does a 3-1 lead mean in the NBA conference finals? The team with that lead has won 16 straight conference finals and 40 of 43 conference finals, historically.)
But talk of the Heat's inevitable KO of the two-time defending East champs can wait for a day, as we continue to gape (over and over) at Wade's Highlight of his Career, hand-him-the-ESPY-now drive.
It was more singularly spectacular than anything that has been done in the NBA this season, even by Kobe or LeBron.
Considering that those two popular would-be MVPs are sitting at home and Wade has emerged as the most scintillating talent of the playoffs, maybe it's time to reconsider who the most enjoyable player in the league is. (Dare I suggest the real "most valuable"?)
And if his play and That Play don't convince you, how about Wade's joyous attitude, which is a refreshing change from Kobe's defensiveness or LeBron's banal Jordanisms.
Said Wade: "I'm just a kid in a candy store right now, having fun on one of the best teams in the NBA."
Monday night, with that one awesome play, Wade brought the fans into the candy store with him.
Bonds Hits 715
Here's the ultimate symbolism of Bonds passing Babe Ruth on Sunday by hitting career home run No. 715:
A local radio guy's mike cut out at the very instant Bonds hit the shot, leaving fans in the dark and this historic moment without the obligatory classic radio call, to be replayed along with the home run forever.
Darn right, it's a sign. Want to bury a huge story? Start with a general apathy toward it, and then have it happen on a Sunday afternoon during a three-day weekend. Then leave it without a signature call.
The upshot? There was no shared national fan moment here, just as there will be no shared national fuzzy fan feelings about Bonds in the future.
15 years down the road when Albert Pujols is streaking past Babe and Barry both, your kid might ask you where you were when Bonds passed Babe.
Not only will you probably not remember (you might not even remember a mere 48 hours after), but your response almost surely will be, "But it wasn't just me: No one cared."
How fascinating: You don't care (or won't care or can't care), but in a decade or two when the next generation of fans are scanning the stats, they won't understand the passion of this year's Bonds debate.
All they'll see is Bonds in the books, sitting there ahead of Babe Ruth. The strength (and weakness) of baseball history is that it is so statistically oriented: So clinical -- and sometimes even harsh.
715 is greater than 714.
For all the column space and air time dedicated to explain how Bonds will never top Babe in baseball myth, there's ultimately no denying his spot ahead of him on the all-time career home-run list.
Whether you like it or not.
Whether you watched or not.
Pujols 74 Watch
Forget "Bonds 715": This season's real record to watch is "Pujols 74." By the end of the season, Bonds' 715 will be long-forgotten and Albert's race to top Barry's 73 will be the story of the season.
Albert hit No. 25 yesterday, accounting for all three runs in a 3-1 Cards win over the Astros.
Doing it in his 51st game of the season, Pujols became the third-fastest ever to 25, behind Bonds '01 (47 games) and McGwire '98 HR (50). Pujols is still on pace for 82 HRs.
MLB Hit List
Chicks dig the ground ball: The sinkerball is the hot pitch of the season, thanks to Brandon Webb's fast start, including an 8-0 record and two straight complete game shutouts.
Quote of the Day: "One good game doesn't make a whole year. But five or six bad games for me doesn't make a year, either. It doesn't mean I'm done." (Randy Johnson, after 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, W vs. Detroit)
Fantasy fantasy: Who was giddiest when Troy Glaus started at shortstop Friday for the Blue Jays? Fantasy managers.
If Glaus could become qualified to fill the SS slot in a lineup in addition to his usual 3B, it would be huge for his fantasy value.
(On average, Glaus was picked 75th in ESPN.com fantasy baseball drafts. Given his stats right now, if he were eligible at 3B and SS, how high would that shoot up? Top 30? Top 20?)
Barrett suspended 10 games: I now normalize all baseball suspensions against Delmon Young's. In effect: Five Barrett punches thrown at A.J. Pierzynski at home plate equals one thrown bat at an ump.
Schilling: 200 wins. Curt's place in the HOF seems secure, when you combine his reaching the 200-win milestone along with those two magic postseasons that established ('01, Arizona) and confirmed ('04, Boston) his mythology.
Dusty in Trouble?
How do you feel about the dreaded "vote of confidence"?
It's conventional wisdom in sports that a coach's job isn't in real jeopardy until the GM or owner chimes in publicly with support.
So what to make of Cubs GM Jim Hendry's backing of embattled Dusty Baker, who has managed the Cubs to 21 losses in their last 26 games?
Hendry said he'll let Baker try to work the team out of its tailspin. To be fair, the Cubs have been gutted by injuries. (What better indicator of Derrek Lee's MVP value than the Cubs' performance since he went down?)
But how long is "work out"? Until the All-Star break? Until key players recover from injuries? (Yesterday, Kerry Wood earned his first win since July 15, 2005.)
Or will it last simply until the fan and media discontent with losing becomes so great that Hendry's hand is forced? It seems like we've reached that boiling point before; Dusty remains in place.
Here's my best guess: Baker will make it through the season, no matter how badly the Cubs play, but short of a miracle run into wild-card contention in August and September, he's as good as gone in October.
Transition D: After giving up 32 fast-break points in the Game 1 loss, the Mavs highlighted that as the key to the rest of the series.
Game 2: 21 fast-break points.
Game 3: 4 fast-break points.
That's right: Four fast-break points for the most prolific offensive team in the league.
Before this series started, fans were tantalized by game scores that would combine more than 250 points. Now, the Mavs' season-long commitment to improved defense is the showcase.
That, not scoring, is the story of the West finals. And if the Suns don't improve on that stat, they won't get past this series.
Indy 500 Drama
Nothing in Indy Car racing can top the gender-bending cachet of Danica Patrick, but Marco Andretti's cachet of youth comes close.
That's what makes 19-year-old Marco's agonizing runner-up finish (with the finish line in sight) so dramatic:
He was trumped by Sam Hornish's experience yet still was able to provide an Oedipal, "new generation" moment, edging out his 43-year-old father, Michael, who unretired for a 3rd-place finish.
Between Marco and Danica, who represent the last two Indy rookies of the year, Indy Car's future has as much star-studded appeal as it ever has.
But nevertheless, recognize that it still takes two gimmicks -- gender and youth -- to put the sport on mainstream fans' radar.
French Open Begins
Roger Federer has one obstacle -- a French Open title -- between him and the undisputed status as the most dominating athlete in sports today.
He might be there already (who's even close: Tiger? Ronaldinho?), but a French Open win would seal it, completing the "Roger Slam" of four straight major titles over two years.
But the French Open title has eluded him. It's a little like playing college basketball against run-and-gun teams all season, then suddenly finding yourself playing against a team that runs the Princeton offense.
(Meanwhile, Federer's clay rival, Rafael Nadal, set a new record Monday with his 54th consecutive clay-court win. Hey, no one said the "Roger Slam" would be easy.)
By finally winning a title on clay, Federer will prove himself master of any -- of all -- tennis environments. Then, the question becomes: Has there been a better tennis player ever?
Ricky to Canada
Ranking the effects of Ricky Williams' jump to the CFL for his NFL suspension year, in order of likelihood:
1. Ricky washes out of the league halfway through the season (or earlier).
2. Argos sell out every game.
3. He leads CFL in rushing.
4. CFL makes Ricky on Ricky.
5. Ricky No. 27 Argos jersey sells more than Reggie Bush No. 25 Saints jersey.
"I made it. I survived, so I guess I'm OK," Ricky said after his first practice Monday with the Argos.