Friday, May 27, 2011

Miami Heat: Get Used To It

Let me start my Finals preview blog by saying that there could be some truth to the rumor that I'm secretly hoping the actual rapture occurs before game 4 so neither of these teams wins the title. Honestly, Dallas is the one team that could make me root for Lebron, Bosh, and the Heat to win it all. However, I am a HUGE fan of the game of basketball. I have spent 1,000's of hours playing, watching, and coaching the game, and I can appreciate individuals who are exceptionally great. This series should be a lot of fun. Three of the NBA's top 5 offensive players will be in this series. Lebron may go down as one of the 3 greatest of all time. Although Scottie Pippen saying LBJ COULD be the best player ever is a little like french fries announcing that mustard COULD be the greatest condiment ever invented. Sorry Scottie, but without MJ's fancy ketchup you would just be a soggy afterthought. As for this talk of Dirk being one of the 10 best players of all-time, or comparing him to Larry Bird? Please, not since Hitler has a German been able to improperly sway so many minds as Dirk apparently has. Let's just sit back and enjoy Nowitzki for being one of the most uniquely talented basketball players ever. NEVER has a 7-footer possessed the offensive skills of Dirk. He is impossible to stop on the offensive end of the floor, and he is automatic from the free throw line. However, he is not very good defensively, he is not an exceptional passer, and he has never won a ring in his lengthy career. Amazing player, but I could rattle off 20 names who were better all around players off the top of my head, and two of them play on the Heat. The thing I am most looking forward to watching in this series is  how both teams close out. Obviously the Mavericks and the Heat looked great at the end of their Conference Championship games, but some of that was due to the inexperience of OKC and the Bulls. I haven't seen a team choke at the end of games as badly as those two did since.......every night I decide to turn the Astros on. I would give the closer nod to the Heat. Lebron has been amazing at the end of games. Nobody on the Mavs, or the planet for that matter can guard him. On the other hand as great as Dirk has been, I see Lebron switching onto him late in games much like he did with Rose last series. Lebron can make it difficult for Dirk. Dirk couldn't guard Lebron if he was 8 feet tall and had 6 extra arms. The Mavericks biggest advantage is obviously their bench. The crew of Barrea, Terry, Haywood, and Stojakavic needs to outplay the Heat bench by a wide margin. I think this will happen at least twice and allow the Mavericks to make a series out of this thing. However, if Udonis Haslem continues to gain momentum and Mike Miller finds his jump shot this could be a very short series. Let's be honest Dirk, Kidd, and Cuban have a lot more pressure to win than the Heat. Barring major injuries the Heat are going to be back in the Finals SEVERAL more times. Dallas may have one shot at this thing. With that being said I think the Heat are focused and as much as some of you may hate to hear it, they might be poised to rattle off 3, 4, 5, or more titles. Get used to the Heat because you are going to be seeing them a lot this time of the year. Prediction: Heat in 6.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 5/21/2011

Here comes another round of suggestions with a side order of sarcasm from yours truly.

SPORTS: Bulls/Heat  I know it's kind of a big deal, but I thought you may need a reminder that this series was still going on since NBA playoff games occur about as often as paydays come around. The first two games were good and this series has all the makings of a classic. No disrespect to the Thunder or Mavs, but no matter who makes the Finals I can't imagine either of them being favorites. If Udonis Haslem brings 13 points a night like he did in game two, then the Heat will have a much better chance to beat the more balanced Bulls. At the start of the Playoffs I had the Heat coming out of the East, but I switched to the Bulls before this series. I just think it is going to be hard for the Heat to score the win when their supporting cast is about as attractive as a 50 year old maid named Mildred...........then again. Also, look for the refs to continue to impact both series as much or more than any of the players.

FOOD: Buffalo Quesadillas Some of the greatest foods ever were invented in the middle of the night when little ingredients were available. This exact situation a few months back led me to my current favorite snack food. I like to call it the Buffalo Quesadilla. Take two tortillas and throw about 1/2 a bag of shredded fiesta cheese in the middle of them. Place said quesadilla in microwave for 50 seconds. While that is being perfected into a greasy heap of cheesy goodness, gather one bowl, ranch dressing, and buffalo wing sauce. In the bowl mix 4 parts ranch with one part buffalo sauce. Take your quesadilla out and dip into the buffalo ranch dressing. For best results eat alone on the couch. My wife refuses to even sit next to me while I eat this, and my stomach has cursed me for eternity, but the tasty revelation that is the buffalo quesadilla is worth every hardship.

BOOKS: Pirate Latitudes The new Pirates of the Caribbean came out this week, but do you really want to subject yourself to another one of those terrible movies. Instead I would recommend this action novel from the late Michael Crichton. The completed manuscript was found after his death in 2008, and really, can you imagine finding any movie of substance from Jerry Bruckheimer after he kicks the bucket? I'm only 100 pages in and already the book is more fun than all of the Pirates movies combined. If you absolutely must have some pirates in your life this summer read Pirate Latitudes and encourage Disney to give up on the boring sequels.

SAFETY: Zombie Apocalypse In case you missed the news this week the CDC issued recommendations for preparing for a zombie infestation. YES, that CDC. The government run centers for disease control is making sure we are all prepared in case Michael Jackson comes back to chase our first born sons. As someone who has seen more than a few zombie films, and counts The Walking Dead as one of his favorite TV shows, I feel like a minor expert on zombie issues. The CDC is saying to have food and water stored, a first aid kit, blah blah blah etc. etc. If zombies run the Earth, I will be furiously chomping down on asparagus and drinking pickle juice. Anything that makes your urine smell that bad has got to be a deterrent for flesh eating zombies........... On second thought, maybe we have found a new purpose for the tasty yet repulsive buffalo quesadilla.

Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Two and Half Men vs The Octabulls


             This blog posting is courtesy of a heated discussion I had with a coworker after game 1 of the Bulls series. I stated that this series boils down to whether the Bulls 8 legitimate NBA players are better than the Heat's 2 and a half. Am I selling Chris Bosh a little short? Probably, but I cannot give him full credit as long as he continues to resemble Lisa Leslie more than Karl Malone. My coworker then began chastising me for not giving the Heat supporting cast enough credit. Is that even possible? That's like saying Michael Bay is not getting enough credit for his theatrical genius. We are talking about a group of has beens, never beens, and disappointments. Juwan Howard and Mike Bibby are ballers. That last sentence could only have been written before 1999. Those two were NBA stars back when everybody had pagers and wore Zubaz pants. Mike Miller has probably been the biggest free agency disappointment of the season. Udonis Haslem has been injured and ineffective and Joel Anthony is your starting center. After the big 2 and 1/2, Mario Chalmers is probably the Heat's best player. Would Mario Chalmers crack the Bulls top 5? 6? 7? Please hear me out, I don't think the Bulls are going to win 4 straight by 20+ pts. I did pick the Bulls when the series began though, because as the playoffs have progressed the Heat role players continue to be exposed. The Bulls are a well balanced team that can exploit the Heat's reliance on so few players. Can LeBron, Dwade, and Chrissy lift the Heat to victory? Yes, but they will have to be legendary and at least get 25 pts from the rest of those clowns. My money is on the Bulls in 6 or 7. I just think Noah, Gibson, Bogans, Deng, Brewer, and Korver will continue to outplay the Heat role players. This series is very appealing to basketball fans because not only does it have star power, but we are about to see whether 2 legendary talents can overcome the best TEAM in the league. Let's just hope the officials don't skew the results either direction.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Goodbye Phil

      Let me start this blog by saying I don't think Phil Jackson was a bad coach, he was a very good coach. But the way ESPN, including one of my favorite writers Bill Simmons have been trying to saint him faster than Pope John Paul II, is making me sick. When ranking basketball PLAYERS, I think one of the most important qualities is number of championships. However, when ranking basketball COACHES I prefer to look at the amount of times a coach is able to overachieve with the players he is given. A coach like Brad Stevens would be greater in my opinion than Roy Williams based on what they did with what they had. The only way I see Phil Jackson overachieving is in the significant other department. He parlayed being "Phil Jackson" into a much younger girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, his boss's daughter by the way. Really if MJ never showed up, don't you picture Phil spending the twilight of his life in a cabin with a Bea Arthur look alike?
Nice job Phil! Now as for all those wins. Practically every year Phil won the title his team was one of the favorites to win. He almost always had the best 1, 2, or sometimes 3 players on the court. He ALWAYS had the best closer on the court. Can anybody go out there and win 11 championships? No. Were there other coaches who in those same situations, with those same players, could have won 11 championships? I say yes. How "legendary" was Phil Jackson the year Scottie Pippen was his best player? The NBA is a player driven league, and without Phil Jackson it will still make money hand over fist. Bill Simmons thinks it was a shame Phil left with his players quitting and him sitting with that smug look on his face? I say it was the perfect ending. He realized he couldn't do anything about the fact he had inferior players, and as usual let them take the blame for the loss. Sometimes I picture Jordan sitting at a poker table with a big cigar in his mouth laughing at the whole notion of the "Zen master". You think Jordan couldn't have pulled a Russell and coached himself to a ring or two? In 2011 America, when somebody reaches their twilight it seems we have to deify them. Phil Jackson was a great coach who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, let's just not rename the place after him.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 5/7/2011

Another installment of award winning recommendations to fill your free time with.
SPORTS: OLD GUYS DIE HARD. If you haven't been paying attention, this year's NBA playoffs are signalling a changing of the guard. We haven't seen a takeover this hostile since the American Revolution. Spurs? Taken out back and euthanized....Old Yeller style. Lakers? Down 0-3 and attempting to replace Pau with Lamar's husband. Celtics? Down 1-2 and looking older than Dick Clark. Something tells me this is a trend and not an aberration. Sorry fellas, I'll just give you a quote from my wife last time I came limping into the house after playing pick up basketball. "You're getting too old to do that." - Take note and start remembering the good old days.

RADIO: THE GAME. 1560 AM. Sports talk can be a Sahara desert of bumbling idiots, inflated egos, and mentally deranged callers. If you like your sports radio to be smart, funny, and entertaining then I suggest you tune in to 1560. Don't give me that, "But the signal is too weak in my car" crap. Get with the 21st century and use your smart phone to download one of the many free apps to listen to live radio. I have an android and listen regularly using the Tunein Radio app. The sound is always crisp and clear. Basically, what I am trying to tell you is that if you still listen to 610 or 790 in Houston, then you are the radio version of the San Antonio Spurs.

FOOD: BULLRITOS. Most of my friends know by now that one of my guilty pleasures is an occasional burrito from Bullritos. Although to be fair, calling it a burrito is like calling the Titanic a boat. These suckers are bigger than my month old baby. Packed with meat, fresh veggies, and rice and beans, a standard bullrito is large enough to feed a small African nation. Top it off with their signature cilantro ranch sauce, and you are headed for a very enjoyable afternoon nap. Check it out. Thank me later.

LIFE: JUST DO IT. I know that is an overused phrase, but I want to encourage you to do something you have always wanted to do. I spent a couple of hours today tweaking this blog, and it was a lot of fun. I've been saying for 2 years that I would love to start doing a blog, and finally a few months ago I did. Now the content here isn't going to solve the world's most pressing issues, but hopefully it provides some people with an entertaining take on sports and other stuff. Most importantly, it has become a labor of love for me. I really enjoy writing. I love sports. This blog has become an extremely fun hobby and an exciting diversion from everyday life. I'd like to thank my wife for encouraging me to do it. Hopefully this will encourage you to do something you keep saying you're going to get around to, from my experience you might really be missing out.

Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Open Letter to Brad, Ed, and Drayton

Dear Astros Braintrust,

        As a lifetime Astros fan I want to get my thoughts on this 2011 version of my hometown 9 out in the open. First let me say that despite our record, I have enjoyed watching this team play so far. I think they compete on a nightly basis. The infusion of youth has been a welcome sight at least for this fan. Even as much as it pains me to see Lance Berkman making winning hits on a nightly basis for the evil empire....I mean Cardinals, I still think trading him was the right move. I for one have been asking this team to get younger and rebuild since at least 2007. I know how much fans enjoy keeping guys like Berkman and Oswalt for their whole career, but honestly, where did that get us with Bidge and Bags? Now my only recommendation is to go all in. I'm not sure if Drayton has a deal where Carlos will buy all his groceries from McLane as long as he is starting, but we really don't need to see El Caballo in LF anymore. Who cares how much he is getting paid? The best option for the Astros now and in the future is Jason Bourgeois. When you play him, Bourn, and Pence together in the outfield it is a thing of beauty. Talk about three young fielders who can really cover some ground. Carlos Lee is like a Kirstie Alley eyesore in the midst of young athletic dancers. PLEASE, relegate Carlos to ocassional DH/backup OF role. It's funny how the two biggest problems with this team, Lee and Lyon, both went down with injuries this week. Coincidentally, the Astros also enjoyed their first 3 game win streak since the Bush presidency. Brett Wallace? Yes, please. There is a guy who is making the most of his major league chance this season. Chris Johnson? Not so much, but I'm not ready to give up on him yet. I would love to see us get younger in the middle IF, and I would be devastated if Jordan Lyles is not in the rotataion by the end of the year. As far as catcher goes, it seems Towles is taking advantage of lowered expectations. I'd like to see how he does with 100 or so games over the course of the season. Obviously, Castro going down was a big bummer as we were all excited to see what he would bring, but if Towles improves maybe catcher could become a semi-deep position for the Astros for the first time since....FOREVER. Now, I know you guys are concerned about attendance. Let me tell you a little secret. Houston fans support winners. Remember 2005? The fans will be back in droves as soon as we develop this young nucleus into a team that can compete in the weakest division in baseball. This isn't Boston, for better and for worse, so trust me when I say these fans will not care what the names on the backs of the jerseys say as soon as they see Astros at the top of the standings. As Bob McNair might say, I think you guys are "on the right track". I just want to be sure you stay the course and don't become frustrated into making a splashy move just to drum up fake support. See you in the 2013 playoffs.

                                                                                                                 A lifelong Astros fan
P.S. If it's not too much Drayton, we would all be much obliged
if you went ahead and sold the team. No offense.