This week’s big sports stories:
1. Stan Van gets sacked… and the GM too
I wanted, wanted, to kick off this week’s edition with the LA basketball teams both going down, but the Orlando Magic just wouldn’t allow it. A few months after Magic center, and centerpiece, Dwight Howard reportedly asked for his coach to be fired, Stan Van Guny was. This time, though Otis Smith, the general manager, was also fired.
This move makes it doubly clear that the ownership in Orlando is doubling down on Dwight Howard, and that is a horrible idea. The only reason Dwight Howard agreed to return last season was that he did not like being trade fodder for the whole season, and wanted the trade deadline to come and go without him having to move. While Stan Van is not the league’s best coach, he at least knows what he is doing, something that cannot be said of all head coaches in the NBA. The only upside to this move is that next season, should the Magic, with a coach and GM who meets Howard’s approval in, stink it up, Howard will be tarnished, and maybe that’s the whole point.
2. The Lakers down to the Thunder; the Clippers get swept by the Spurs; the Kings on the brink
Jim Rome said that we focus too much on glamor teams when they lose, and not the victors, and that is true. As such, I will merge both together here, and throw in some NHL while I’m at it. The Lakers went down, 4 games to 1, and the reason is obvious: the Thunder were the better team, and the Lakers are just too dysfunctional. You can blame the new coaching staff and the new system. You can blame Kobe and/or Pau Gasol and/or Andrew Bynum. It doesn’t matter now; someone has to fix the team before Kobe’s era passes, and diagnosing that problem is their job.
The Clippers went down hard to the Spurs, but considering their more humbling pedigree, I chose to give them more credit. Blake Griffin is still young, and he is still gelling with Chris Paul (remember, it was a shortened season). While expectations against the Spurs were low, it should be remembered that the Clippers won their first playoff series in several years, and that unto itself, makes this a huge year for them.
Finally, the Kings are fighting for survival. Good luck to them; I normally wouldn’t care, but no city deserves to have three teams go down in less than a week.
3. The Western Conference Finals
The young Oklahoma City Thunder will be marching against the older and far more experienced San Antonio Spurs. To paraphrase John Wayne in The Cowboys, it’s the battle of muscle versus experience; in that film, by the way, the experience triumphed.
This series is one of those where both teams are playing at the top of their game, both are coming off series in which they dominated, and both teams have every reason to feel good about themselves; the Thunder because they are fulfilling the promise they began fulfilling last season, and the Spurs because they know this could be their last rodeo, so they intend to make it one worth remembering, with rings.
The matchup is one of those that I daren’t try to predict; I just want it to be an incredible series.
4. The Rogers Clemens trial
The Clemens trial continued today, with a juror… hang on, haven’t we done this before? NEXT!
5. The Big 12-SEC Big Time College Bowl Game
A lot was made a few days ago when the Big 12 and SEC pledged that the winners (or other “deserving” teams in the event one or both of them were in the BCS 4-team playoff bracket) would meet in a bowl game, starting in 2015. Most commentaries stated that this would prompt another round of conference realignment, leading to mega-conferences, which Kirk Herbstreit had said would doom the NCAA as a whole.
Catch your breath? Yeah, me too. In any event, this potential game, which some people say may never actually come to pass as things develop over the next few years, will be a centerpiece of the New Years bowl games, likely the primetime equivalent to the Rose Bowl.
As the world turns…
The Cowboys and the Redskins both lost their appeals this week, regarding their overspending during the 2010 uncapped season, and the resulting cap punishments that were handed down by the league. As a result, all other teams, except for the Saints and Raiders, who also overspent, but not as badly, will receive extra cap room in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
However, what I don’t understand, and what I need someone in the NFL to come out and say, is why overspending in the uncapped year was wrong in the first place. The Cowboys, Redskins, Saints, and Raiders were not actually violating any rules at the time; the exact opposite, they were acting in the rules that had been put in place by then-in-place CBA. The whole point of the uncapped season was that ownership would no longer have the negotiating point with players, “well, that salary would adversely effect our salary cap situation.”
The worst part is that the NFL, by rule, could not legislate this, and as such, I do not know how they can punish a team for this; I really don’t understand how an arbitrator can look at this situation and say “yeah, this seems fair.” Even if the owners had a verbal agreement, we live in a society where lawyers can crawl out of the woodwork for literally anything; a second year law student can argue how wrong the NFL is here, and to more people than not, she or he would probably make sense.
What astounds me even more with all this is the lack of presence with regard to the Player’s Association; you’d think an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the rights of the players, especially in regard to contracts and money, would take serious offense to any insinuation that a team, with no limits, would be punished for serious spending on players. Again, don’t they have a lawyer who can prove this is also a labor issue?
I know I’m ranting now, but this is one of those things that annoys me; a team getting punished for doing nothing wrong, not just in the context of the rules, but in the context of the lack of rules that existed at that point.