NBA Preview

And probably the only post I'll have about the NBA until next season's preview- unless the Celtics get on a roll, then I'll be a happy fairweather B-ball fan.

Seriously, I used to be a big NBA guy back when the NBA was IT. I'll date myself here, but I was a fan produced of the 80's Celtics and inaugural Dream Team. I can't stand the watered down, teen millionaire, thug-lifestyle, IQ dampening swill it is today. I used to hate HATE college hoops, but now because the NBA is what it is, I am all for "Midnight Madness" way before I am for "It's FAN-tastic".

That all being said, I am a sports fan and I do keep my eye on all things athletic and competitive. So here's my oh-so-short-and-sweet NBA predictions that I had posted in a separate blog. (See, that's how uniterested I am with the NBA; I simply just plagiarized myself- if that's possible.)

Dirk. Takes the leap while LeBron and Kobe fall back.

Coach of the Year-
Scott Skiles- most improved team (both natural growth and via FA a la Wallace)

Team on the Rise-
Bulls (same reasons)

Team on the Decline-
Spurs- getting older and not better.
Breakout Player (The "Diaw Award")- I'll go with Dan's new fad- Nazr Mohammed

Rookie to Watch (not necessarily "best")-
Rondo- call me a homer, but the kid is sneaky fast and a gifted passer which the Celts need.

Storyline We'll Be Talking About in January-
Telfair was the shooter.

Western Playoff Seeding/Conf. Champs (Who over who?)
#1 Mavs over #4 Suns Dirk/Johnson player/coach tandem best in league.

Eastern Playoff Seeding/Conf. Champs (Who over who?)
#2 Bulls over #1 Pistons. You just gotta have this happen!

NBA Champs
Mavs over Bulls- playoff experience from last year is the difference.

World Series Game 3.

The biggest question before Game 3 should be, are the Cardinals players over the fact their manager ceremoniously, albeit inadvertently, threw them under the proverbial bus by declaring, in hindsight, Kenny Rogers cheated. Though Tony LaRussa never actually applied the Scarlet Letter to Rogers' chest, the "it wasn't dirt." pretty much is the "A" we all wanted to see. But really, who is the bigger "A" in this?

My boy Shanoff rightfully says, it's Tony.

What manager in their right mind backtracks and makes an accusation like this? As the victim for crying out loud!! If you're going to make the call, make it when it counts- in the 1st inning of Game 2. Any effort (let's not even rank the hollowness of the actions) since then is completely and utterly useless.

What's worse is, by not calling a spade a spade in Game 2, LaRussa has directly put his team in a 2 games to 1 hole before they even play Game 3. Why? Because if you were a Cardinals player (not counting perennial LaRussa-hater Scott Rolen) wouldn't you be just a little miffed (and subsequently off your game tonight) if you knew your manager didn't have your back? I mean, come on- you and your team had a built-in excuse (and rally cry for Game 3) to chalk up a Game 2 loss to cheating, instead you took the high road, then took the low road and metaphorically castrated your HFA gained after a Game 1 win because everyone now feels cheated because they didn't have a chance to say they had been cheated.

Do you see the absolute conundrum here for Cardinals players (and fans)? Tonight is lose/lose. If you win, you know you got cheated out of a 3-0 WS lead and near-lock for the title in perhaps the greatest upset (to steal a Shanoff phrase) "of the ESPN Era". Better than the Red Sox '04 ALCS 0-3 comeback? Maybe not, but as I said in a previous post, all the "experts" virtually condemned the Tigers when the Detroit sweep talk was conceived before the WS started. At the time I said Murphy's Law will step in and the Cards would win in 7. But maybe it's worse than even that classic scenario. Maybe the Cardinals reel off the next 3 wins (at home), win the title 4 games to 1 and they get the time-tested, MLB-approved * in the history books.

2006 World Series: Cardinals 4 games Tigers 1 game*

* Should have been a sweep (and greatest upset of all time contender) if LaRussa had just rallied his troops before the Game 2 loss became apparent).

Sure, that may be 1 long footnote, but in this day and age of all things media, just winning is not enough anymore. Sure, no one remembers the events 10 years from now (I'd argue, by the start of next Spring Training more likely), but that's what asterisks are for- to remind us what should have happened.

If the Cards lose (more likely), they just handed Detroit back the HFA, are legitimately down 2-1 and have begun a 2-game losing streak with a demoralized team psyche- all thanks to Tony "a spade's not a spade... oh wait, yeah it is" LaRussa's fence hopping. It's this type of decision-making that will make LaRussa 1-4 for his career in World Series matchups.

Don't hate the playa, hate the manage-a.