There seem to be three things Americans can all agree on: Gas prices are too high, puppies are cute, and Kwame Brown Is Exhibit A for Why the NBA Needs an Age Limit.
Brown, who was suspended by the Washington Wizards for the rest of the playoffs last week, is 23, well over the proposed minimum of 20, but he's been a flaming failure since the Wiz made him the first high schooler to be taken No. 1 overall in the NBA draft in 2001, when he was 19. He's been a model of immaturity, irresponsibility, petulance and, most important, ineffective play.
His list of sins is familiar to you if you've been following the Wizards for the last few years, which means it's unfamiliar to most of you, but it's long and more or less what you'd expect from someone who has some growing up to do.
The Wizards got tired of waiting for that maturation after Brown, apparently miffed at a lack of playing time, skipped out on a practice and a playoff game in the opening round.
I suppose I get why Brown is Exhibit A for the age-limit argument. He was under the proposed limit when he was drafted and he flamed out, wasting a lot of money for the Wizards and a lot of hope for their fans.
Not to mention money. As Tony Kornheiser pointed out in Sunday's Washington Post, the Wiz have spent the last four years selling high-priced tickets on the idea that their overall No. 1 pick was poised for superstardom.
Here's what I don't get: Why doesn't anybody ever cite the other exhibits in this argument? This is an argument with more than one side, after all, and plenty of Exhibit A's. Or is it Exhibits A?
LeBron James, for example. One of the league's best players and easily its most popular, a shining example of skill, maturity and just plain likability, all of which was true when he was 18. He turned 20 in the middle of this season, his second, when he almost single-handedly carried a pretty lousy Cleveland team to the playoffs -- not that I want to be caught saying that getting the last playoff spot in the East is somehow impressive.
LeBron James is Exhibit A for letting 18-year-olds play.
And then there's Bonzi Wells, a shining example of what our educational system can produce. Wells not only went to college, he was a matriculating fool. No early exit for Bonzi. He spent four years at Ball State in his hometown of Muncie, Ind., where he is, no joke, a pillar of the community. Ball State retired his number.
His career went the way these things are supposed to go. After using up all of his college eligibility, he was taken in the first round of the 1998 draft, 11th overall, and didn't play his first NBA game until he was 23 years old.
He was sent home in the first round of the playoffs too, by the Memphis Grizzlies, for pretty much the same reason the Wizards cut Brown loose. He'd whined to reporters about his playing time.
This is a guy who in the last few years has been a league-average player on his good days. The Grizzlies got him when he was run out of Portland on a rail because of his poor play and bad attitude. Portland. Think about that for a second.
Bonzi Wells: Exhibit A for the argument that these college kids are bad news!
And while we're pursuing this line of argument, Ted Bundy is Exhibit A for why we should throw all Volkswagen owners in prison.
If you can make the argument that the damage done to the NBA by Kwame Brown between his 18th and 20th birthdays outweighs the good LeBron James did for the league between his 18th and 20th, my hat's off to you. I'd love to hear the case for puppies not being cute while you're at it.
And don't even get me started on those college boys.
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Love it lopsided [PERMALINK]
What a great weekend for basketball, as long as you like blowouts. It started promisingly enough, with the Wizards beating the Bulls 94-91 in an interesting clincher to an intriguing series, but it was all downhill from there, with the Celtics, Rockets, Wizards and Sonics standing at the bottom of that hill, getting crushed.
Saturday's Game 7s were both wipeouts, with the Pacers beating the Celtics in Boston 97-70, at the time the fourth largest margin of victory in a Game 7 in NBA history. Then the Mavericks knocked that game one down the list by abusing their in-state rivals the Rockets 116-76 at home, the most one-sided Game 7 ever.
Some way to end what had been a thriller of a series, with the first four games going to the road team and Games 2 through 5 all decided by four points or fewer.
But even though that Mavs-Rockets game goes in the books as the worst Game 7 beatdown of all time, it wasn't as lopsided as the Spurs' 103-81 seal-clubbing of the Sonics to open their second-round series Sunday. By the weekend's standards, that 22-point margin looks downright slim, but the in the second half the Spurs were actually playing charades on the bench, with players on the court chiming in guesses as they went back on defense.
The game was over in the first minute and a half, when Tony Parker drove to the basket unmolested for easy layups on each of the Spurs' first three possessions and the Sonics showed no sign of knowing how to stop that.
It got worse from there. The Spurs built a 28-point lead in the second quarter, and the Sonics lost Vladimir Radmanovic to what looked like a serious ankle sprain and then, even worse, star Ray Allen to what looked like a manageable one.
I took some heat from Sonics fans last week for downplaying Seattle's first-round win over the Kings. I countered that the Sonics could earn my respect by beating the Spurs. I didn't think they had much of a chance, "though I think the Sonics will keep the games close." So far, not so good.
If Allen can play, I still think the Sonics can keep the games close, especially if the Spurs take them too lightly, which is a danger. Blowouts in the NBA are pretty flukey -- witness the biggest Game 7 blowout in history coming at the end of a close, unpredictable series -- and at some point the 3-pointers are going to start falling for Seattle, even against that great San Antonio defense.
But keeping the games close is probably the best the Sonics can hope for.
The Wizards are going to have serious problems against the Heat, too, even if Antawn Jamison's injured knee doesn't curtail him too badly. Miami took Game 1 Sunday 105-86, yet another rout, and that was without Dwyane Wade or Shaquille O'Neal having a big game. I've been telling you about Heat sharpshooter Keyon Dooling for years.
OK, I haven't.
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Huge Derby upset [PERMALINK]
What a stunning turn of events at the Kentucky Derby Saturday. I really can't remember the last time I've been so shocked by something I saw at a sporting event.
I don't mean 50-1 shot Giacomo swallowing up horses down the stretch to win the Run for the Roses. That was nice, but the real upset was that a blimp was used to provide interesting, useful pictures of the event.
For as long as I've been alive and watching sports, blimps have floated over big events and beamed pictures of -- pretty much nothing. The skyline of whatever town is hosting the event. If you've seen Pasadena from the air on one New Year's Day, complete with a full Rose Bowl, I daresay you've seen 'em all.
My favorite blimp shot is the nighttime cityscape during a basketball or hockey game. Yup, there's Dallas at night, which looks a lot like about a hundred other cities at night, and look, there's the ugly roof of the building the game's being played in!
The blimp's purpose is to advertise for the company whose name is plastered on the side of the blimp.
But NBC used the blimp to follow the horse race Saturday, and the resulting replay was beautiful. Far better than with any of the grandstand cameras, you could really see the race play out.
NBC was interviewing Afleet Alex's jockey, Jeremy Rose, as it showed the blimp replay, and you could see how he probed for an opening between horses, then shot the gap when he got the chance. You could also see how much the positions of the horses changed during the race.
From the stands, it looks pretty much like all the horses are running in a straight line, except when someone makes a break for the outside or the rail. The blimp showed how the horses are constantly floating left and right as they run, and thus why openings presents themselves.
You could also see why track announcer Tom Durkin, after an early identification of Giacomo, didn't even mention his name until the last furlong pole. The horse came out of nowhere, in 10th place as they turned for home, and not a bunched-up 10th either.
Watching Giacomo blast up the middle, then head to the outside, then outrun Closing Argument even as the two drifted farther and farther outside was breathtaking.
Who'd have thought a blimp could be a good place to put a camera?
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