The new-look Cleveland Cavaliers went to Boston Wednesday night for a statement game against the Celtics.
The statement: "Wait a second. How did we get Wally Szczerbiak?"
The Celtics beat the Cavs 92-87, a score that was closer than the game thanks to some garbage-time action, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Cavaliers retooled at the trade deadline last week, switching out half their roster, to make a run at a second straight Eastern Conference title and, more important, to make LeBron James happy.
James is palling around with Jay-Z, a part owner of the New Jersey Nets, who are going to be the Brooklyn Nets soon, and wouldn't the biggest basketball star in the world be a nice fit in the Big Apple. James isn't exactly shouting down the whispers that it's just a matter of time before he's going to be waking up to find he's king of the hill, top of the heap. But he had been barking that he needed help in Cleveland.
Adding Szczerbiak, Delonte West, Ben Wallace and Joe Smith and subtracting Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons, Shannon Brown, Ira Newble and Donyell Marshall was general manager Danny Ferry's ambitious plan for turning the Cavs into a championship team, which would theoretically make James want to stay with his hometown team, a dubious theory.
Winning a championship could just as easily be a motivation to leave, content in having done right by the team he grew up rooting for from down the road in Akron.
"I didn't think we were good enough to win the championship," Ferry said Friday after the trades that made over his roster.
The Cavs still don't look like they're good enough to win the championship, though they're probably a little better than they were. Wednesday was a little bit one of those nights, with the Celtics' shots falling and the Cavs' shots not. Cleveland shot 38 percent, Boston a scorching 52. James also missed a few minutes in the second quarter with a sprained ankle.
"When you have an off-shooting night like this, it's tough to pull a game out," James said, "especially against the best team in the league."
Maybe that was the statement, although, like most regular-season games, the real statement was "Just another Wednesday night in February," as evidenced by James and Wallace enjoying a laugh together on the bench with two and a half minutes to go and the Cavs down by 14.
The Celtics are the best team in the league only if you consider the Eastern Conference to be the league, and maybe then only if you ignore Detroit. They've cooled down since their red-hot start and are only 18-9 since the start of the year, 15-9 since Jan. 9. When the shots are falling, sure, these new Cavs can hang with them. But would either team be in the top three in the West? At the moment, that wouldn't be a statement I'd make.
Clemens tires of media, ready for it to go away [PERMALINK]
"Wow," New York Times sportswriter Jack Curry blogs that Roger Clemens said to the clump of reporters who tried to talk to him as he arrived at the Houston Astros spring training complex Wednesday, "you guys need to get a life."
Excuse me, Roger Clemens, but aren't you the guy who called a press conference to make your denials of steroid use alleged in the Mitchell Report? Wasn't that you talking to reporter Mike Wallace, at your own request, about the same subject on "60 Minutes"?
This is classic celebrity hypocrisy. The media is all well and fine when you want to sell something or polish your image so you can sell something later or deny some accusation that's going to make it difficult for you to sell things. But when you're done using it, it's populated by a bunch of losers and predators who need to get a life and stop following you around and harassing you and bothering you and why don't they find something else to write about and there ought to be a law.
Listen up, celebrities, I'm talking to you: You cannot use the media for your own needs and expect it to leave you alone when you're satisfied.
The ladies and gentlemen of the fourth estate are, collectively, a hulking greasy monster that sits by the side of the road waiting for something to move. It's possible, if the situation lends itself and you do it right and you're lucky, to use that hulking greasy monster for your own ends. But if you do that, the monster's going to become interested in whatever you do, because you've showed it that you move, and it's been sitting there waiting for something to move, remember?
So you don't get to use the monster to achieve whatever it is you're trying to achieve and then say, "Why is this greasy monster following me around? Get it away from me!" It's just not how the world works. Sorry.
This isn't new. This is how it has been since the cameras had those exploding flash bulbs. Maybe longer. Once he got a little famous, Socrates probably kept trying to ditch that pest Plato.
So of course we shouldn't expect anything more from Roger Clemens. Has Clemens ever committed a public act that didn't make him look like a complete jerk?
Of course he has. He's been a pitcher. We could talk about how good he was at that, but you know, I think I'll go get a life instead.
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Post-Traumatic Overachievement [PERMALINK]
The Houston Rockets season is over, you say? They responded to the loss of Yao Ming for the season by hammering the Washington Wizards 94-69 Tuesday night.
Their season is still over.
What happened Tuesday was an illustration of the Kaufman Theory of Post-Traumatic Overachievement. Teams that lose a star player often respond by playing well in the first game without him. They "step up," in the parlance of coaches, who always say, as Rockets coach Rick Adelman did in so many words, that that's what the injured star's mates must do.
But if those other guys were capable of stepping up for more than just a short, emotional burst, why hadn't they already? Why weren't the Rockets not just winning but blowing people away with all these players capable of playing better, plus Yao.
The Rockets have the seventh best record in the Western Conference, with a healthy lead of two and a half games over Golden State and three over Denver and either 25 or 26 games remaining for all three teams. Only two of them will make the playoffs.
You have to admire the way the Rockets responded to their devastating news Tuesday, but the KTPTO says they're going to be the odd team out in April. That's the prediction from here.
Previous column: Cheating liars and lying cheaters
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