Monday’s Seven Casual Contemplations

Evidently, because you are reading this now, you were able to survive last week without Monday’s 7 Casual Contemplations to start your work week off with a bang. I’m not sure how you got through the week without it but good on you. No need to fret though as your work week will be started off right this Monday. Exclusive to Painting the Black, here are your Monday Morning Casual Contemplations…

Help me Win Gillette Drafted!

Reminder or in case you did not know: I was selected as a top 24 finalist for theScore’s (a TV sports station in Canada) Gillette Drafted competition, which is the search for Canada’s next great sportscaster. This is the 4th season so they have changed the whole format around.

Voting has become an integral part of the process and I need as much support as I can possibly get. Shameless self promotion is key and what I ask of my blog readers is to go to my page http://www.drafted.ca/finalists/chris-ross/ and vote every day. Tell your friends, family, coworkers, strangers, pets and just about anything that could possibly work a computer to vote as well.

A couple of weekends ago I attended the top 24 bootcamp in Toronto. This is the main part of their selection process to cut the 24 down to the 6. The 6 will be announced in the middle of August. Not all, but some of the videos from that weekend are already up. If you want to check my videos out click on the link here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5BA86A30B00A3F32&feature=plcp

Thank you for all your support in advance. It is unbelievable to know that I have the backing of so many people in the hope of achieving my dream job.

Big 3’s

Big 3’s aren’t so uncommon in the NBA anymore. The Celtics started it and a number of teams have followed suit. Obviously, no big 3 has been more scrutinized than the Miami Heat trio. The group in Miami is undoubtedly the most talented but it isn’t the most effective.

I think it’s clear that the Oklahoma City Thunder big 3 is superior in almost every way to what the Heat possess. The Thunder trifecta is a much more balanced group. The balance has allowed them to thrive even at such a young age. While the Heat feature 2 ball dominating wing players, the Thunder only have 1. Sure, Westbrook has the ball in his hands a lot but that is his job. He is a point guard. He averaged just 5.5 assists per game this past season but people tend to forget that in the previous two seasons he averaged over 8 assists per game.

The Thunder do lack a big man in their big 3 but each player has a more defined role. No one is redundant. Harden plays the other wing position with Durant but his style of play is far different. Wade and Lebron’s skill sets overlap each other. They are only able to make up for it because they are incredibly talented individuals.

Similar to the Celtics, the Thunder have 3 players, each with their own unique role on the floor. The Heat struggle offensively because of the lack of definition in their roles. What the Thunder lack in pure overall talent and, of course, a big man, they compensate with a very good mix of complementary skill sets.

In a certain sense, the Thunder big 3 is much better than the Heat’s.

1 Day Contracts

LaDanian Tomlinson signed a 1 day contract with San Diego so that he could retire as a Charger. Gawd, is this even news anymore?

These 1 day contracts are so dumb. They carry absolutely no meaning. I can’t wrap my head around this notion of needing to retire with the team you spent the bulk of your career with. Tomlinson had 2 years with the New York Jets to finish his career. Big deal.

The sentimentality behind this 1 day contract is useless. Does Tomlinson really have to retire as a Charger to be remembered as a lifelong Charger?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

Hold Outs

Hold outs really bother me. I hate them. The professional athletes who hold out generally make much more than the average athletes yet they want more and more. Nevertheless, I have exceptions to my hatred of the holdout.

NFL running backs have it tough. Their shelf life is shorter than a fresh loaf of bread. That’s why teams should be taking care of their star running backs. Guys like Maurice Jones Drew and, especially Matt Forte who have come on the cheap, deserve to be rewarded. I understand the diminishing value of running backs in the game of football but top flight running backs do so much for their respective organizations. Jones-Drew and Forte are both 26. Cut them a cheque for heaven sakes.

Matt Forte doesn’t have the luxury of playing until he is 35 or 40 like Drew Brees. Forte will be lucky if he gets past 30. Forte earned $600,000 in 2011 and the Bears are fine with putting the franchise tag on their offensive star. Hold out as long as you want big boy. I don’t have a problem with it.

Maurice Jones-Drew made up 47.7% of his team’s offence last season but is also having to force the Jaguars hand by holding out. I don’t blame him.

There are very few elite running backs left in the NFL and they should be compensated fairly by their organizations. They take a massive pounding and aren’t going to be around much longer. Suck it up and fork over a few extra bucks to these work horses. They have earned it.

Umpires

I’m pretty sure it’s becoming a weekly thing for me to be complaining about some sort of refereeing. In my defence, they’re always doing something wrong. How can I not complain?

I guess here is my referee/umpire complaint of the week then: I can’t stand when home plate umpires call guys for being unable to check their swing. There are often times when guys are walking the line between checking their swing and going too far. It’s close and hard to tell. However, many home plate umpires believe that they have the right to make the difficult call. It isn’t even obvious for a base umpire but the home plate umpire will feel he has a good enough view to ring a guy up.

Seriously, is it that difficult for them to point down to the base ump for a better angle? Why do they insist on making the close call when it can be tough to decipher even on a slow motion replay?

Umpires, a special breed indeed.

US Open

Webb Simpson won the US Open with a final score of +1. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love it. In fact, I love everything about how difficult the US Open was for players this year.

None of this 18 under par stuff we see in the Frys.com Open and what not. This is golf at its finest. It’s not supposed to be an easy game. As sadistic as it may sound, I find a lot of joy in seeing players struggle to make pars. I mean, it should be hard for players to immortalize themselves in major championship history.

Webb Simpson had a spectacular day when most faltered. He clutched up on the 18th hole with an extraordinary up and down from just off the green. He is worthy of the title ‘US Open Champion.’ I don’t want majors to be so easy that any Joe Schmoe can shoot a good score.

The 2012 US Open is why I love major championship golf.

Group of Death

I’m not a huge soccer fan. Is that the reason I don’t think the Netherlands exit from the group stage wasn’t embarrassing?

They should have been able to take a game from Denmark but upsets happen. It’s soccer. It’s sports. It’s 3 games, that’s it. Sometimes you don’t perform. That is hardly a disgrace by any means though.

One of Germany, Portugal and Holland had to be eliminated. The Netherlands were this year’s victim of the group of death. A shame but not a disaster from where I stand.

Because of You

Kevin Durant’s numbers are exactly what would be expected of a superstar.

It’s a good thing for the Oklahoma City Thunder that Kevin Durant isn’t all superstar though. That’s not a knock on Kevin Durant. In fact, it’s the biggest reason why the Thunder have been able to mature into one of the two best teams in the league. Maybe the best.

Sure, KD has become not only the best pure scorer in the NBA but also a much more complete player. Yeah, he has established himself as a closer that we can compare to Michael Jordan without sounding completely ridiculous. It’s true, he has led OKC to the NBA Finals.

But the Thunder are thriving now because of Kevin Durant’s personality. His easy-going nature has allowed Oklahoma City to become the dominating force that they are today. While superstars are generally thought of to be this type A, dictatorship-like personality, Kevin Durant is governing his team democratically.

It feels like eons ago when Russell Westbrook was being condemned for his apparent lack of a conscious and Kevin Durant was getting criticized for his reluctance to take the bull by the horns. Unlike a dirty prison rat, Kevin Durant continued to defend his partner in crime no matter how out of hand Westbrook got. Durant even fired back at Skip Bayless saying “we’re worse when I take more shots” a couple of months ago.

Without Kevin Durant’s willingness to let his shoot first point guard shoot first far too often, the Thunder wouldn’t be up 1-0 in the NBA Finals as we speak. Durant let Westbrook play through his mistakes. His many, many mistakes.

Oh, how the times have changed.

Westbrook is not the same player these days. He still takes lots of shots. Last night, Westbrook had 24 field goal attempts to Durant’s 20. But the change is most noticeable in key situations. During the playoffs, Westbrook has finally learned when to defer to the best player on his team. He knows when he should sit back and watch the magic instead of trying to make it.

It took a bit longer than it probably should have but everyone grows up at a different rate. For some odd reason, Russell Westbrook deluded himself into thinking, and/or was out to prove, that he was the superstar in Oklahoma City.

If Kevin Durant handled this situation in the authoritarian manner that many thought he should, it might very well have stunted Westbrook’s development. Knowing Westbrook, he may have responded to fire with fire, rebelling to the oppressiveness like a teenager does to his parents telling him to hit the books. However, Kevin Durant let Russell Westbrook mature at his own pace. He didn’t force the issue and Westbrook responded accordingly.

The evidence was there again on Tuesday night as Kevin Durant poured in 17 of his game-high 36 points in the final period. Westbrook may have finished the game with more shots but he picked his spots, the right ones, in the 4th quarter.

A championship this season isn’t necessary to validate what Kevin Durant did for his team. He didn’t knee-jerk his way to a controversy and the Thunder are on their way to many more exhilarating championship runs. He may have done very little over the past year to squash the Skip Bayless led criticism but very little was precisely what Oklahoma City, and more importantly, Westbrook required.

Russell Westbrook is changed man now. He didn’t need an intervention. He just needed time.

Not many superstars would have been able to give Westbrook the time he needed. But Kevin Durant isn’t like most superstars.

And because of it, the Oklahoma City Thunder are sitting pretty, a game up on the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

Agree? Disagree? You can also E-mail Chris at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

NBA Playoffs – Where Legends Are Made

Muhammad Ali once said “Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them — a desire, a dream, a vision.”

Dirk Nowitzki and, as hard as it is for me to say it, Lebron James are proving themselves to be champions.

Dirk Nowitzki though has carried the weight of the world on his own shoulders year in and year out trying to get his Dallas Mavericks a championship. That weight will stay with him until he gets that ring to put on his finger but no matter what happens Dirk is finally receiving the accolades that he deserves.

This isn’t your everyday run-of-the-mill NBA star. Not to say that guys like Jordan, Magic, Bird and Kobe are. However, Dirk Nowitzki is a once in a lifetime player. Not once in an era or generation but lifetime.

We have almost taken Dirk for granted throughout his career. This is in large part because of his inability to win the big one. No one is taking him for granted anymore. What the big German is showing the world right now in these NBA playoffs is something to tell the grandchildren. He is moving towards legendary status.

The ridiculous shots are one thing. The ridiculous shots under the immense pressure that Nowitzki carries is quite another.

When the Mavericks needed him most, Nowitzki has done what all legends do. Against Oklahoma City he shot an incredible 56% from the field while missing only 2 free throws in 61 attempts. Oh yeah, 2 of those free throw makes came in game 4 to tie the game with 6.4 seconds left in regulation. Did I mention that he swished them both?

Regular season dominance means greatness but post-season dominance creates a legend.

I can say with an immense amount of confidence that there won’t be another player that can do the special things that Dirk Nowitzki does 7 feet off of the ground. He’s not considered one of the top 10 best players of all-time but his truly unique abilities are 1 in 7 billion special. Those 1 legged rainbow jumpers may get all the attention but it is just a microscopic sample of the extraordinary things Dirk does.

This is not coming from the euphoric passion of riding the Dirk Nowitzki 2011 playoff MVP bandwagon. This is popping the cork of that bottle of champagne that has been shaking for the last decade.

If anyone deserves a ring it’s Dirk Nowitzki. He doesn’t need it though and there is a good chance that he won’t get one against his likely opponents, the Miami Heat.

If the Mavericks come up short it won’t be Dirk’s fault and I think he has established that. Like many big market sports, basketball is a team one and playoff underachieving has been a theme among Dirk Nowitzki led Maverick teams.

Should that mean anything for a guy who has averaged 3.0 points a game better in his entire playoff career than his regular season career? Should playoff underachieving mean anything for someone who hasn’t had a legitimate center to clog the lane until his 13th season in the NBA?

For one reason, Dan Marino’s achievements are still belittled to this day. It’s unfair that Marino is punished for something that was out of his control to such a large extent.

Championship or not, Dirk Nowitzki should be considered a legend in his own right. It is wrong that people have considered him a failure, to a certain degree, simply because he lacks the infamous ring.

Lebron James is showing signs that he is clutch like a champion. However, unlike Dirk, his legendary status will have an extended stay in purgatory while the basketball Gods attempt to figure out what could have been for the self-proclaimed King.

Unlike Lebron, Dirk Nowitzki didn’t have to sell his soul for a championship and in the end that will make all the difference.

Related: Miami Heat Get the Easy Route

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Hierarchy Established?

It may have taken 7 games but it looks as though Robin, in Oklahoma City’s very own Batman and Robin combination, has finally realized his place.

For some odd reason, the mentality of Kobe Bryant, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss have rolled into one man’s brain. Highlighted by a triple overtime win against the Grizzlies in game 4, it was apparent that Russell Westbrook’s ego had expanded as large as Jared before he got on Subway.

Even though the Thunder won game 4 and Westbrook scored 40, the alarm bells were ringing loud. Time after time, Westbrook felt it was his duty to play the isolation game while Batman played spectator. He took 33 shots compared to Durant’s 20, while Durant still poured in a very efficient 35 points.

Throughout the year, Westbrook has played as if he has the talent and burden Derrick Rose possesses. This has been a problem for Oklahoma but the bright lights of the NBA playoffs have magnified the situation. Westbrook had to change. Prior to game 7, Westbrook had taken 134 shots compared to Durant’s 105. That just ain’t right.

In game 7, Westbrook took 12 shots compared to Durant’s 25. Well that’s more like it.

Thunder fans better hope that this is a sign of things to come in the Western Conference Finals.

Westbrook is one of the most explosive players in the NBA but he is not one of the best. It baffles me that playing beside the league’s leading scorer hasn’t kept that massive ego from swelling. Obviously no one else in the Thunder organization has been able to keep his ego in check either and it almost cost them an early exit.

It doesn’t matter if Westbrook figured this one out on his own. All that matters is that he changed. He was able to resign himself to the fact that he is Robin and that Robin is the sidekick.

Kevin Durant showed us all that he has the heart of a champion but he couldn’t have done it without his sidekick doing his job. Westbrook had 14 assists and became one of only a select few NBA players to have put up a triple-double in a game 7.

Putting all of this on Westbrook might not completely fair because Durant has to be more assertive. Kevin Durant is the boss and Westbrook needs to know that.

Coming up as clutch as he did had to show Russell Westbrook whose team it really is.

Russell Westbrook is becoming one of the NBA’s premiere point guards but he will always be second fiddle as long as Kevin Durant is around.

Game 7 cannot be an anomaly for the Thunder. It has to become a recurring theme not only for the immediate prospects of the franchise but also for the future. It’s scary to think that Durant and Westbrook are both 22. However, the Thunder are not nearly as scary if Westbrook has any intentions of continuing his campaign to be top dog.

We all know that Batman and Robin can be a lethal team but if Robin wants to be Batman then the whole dynamic is thrown out the window. If the Oklahoma City Thunder want the future to be now, Russell Westbrook needs to decide which character he wants to play.

Hopefully he knows that there is only 1 choice.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

Subscribe to my blog too and you can get the latest posts such as Miami Heat Get the Easy Route

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