Monday’s Seven Casual Contemplations

It’s Monday, time for some contemplations. Some a bit more casual than others. Starting your work week off right, here are your Monday Morning Casual Contemplations.

Shaq Daddy GM?

I can’t begin to tell you how ridiculous this sounds. It’s even more ridiculous that the Orlando Magic didn’t deny their reported interest in Shaquille O’Neal as their General Manager.

Being a GM is an art. It takes years to learn the ins and outs of the business. Shaq is a sideshow. He is an entertainer. Shaq also doesn’t seem like the brightest individual. Funny, yes. Smart, the jury is still out. I’m sorry that his MBA from the online University of Phoenix doesn’t convince me otherwise. General Manager’s need to be intelligent, dedicated to the craft and savvy. Shaq might be 1 for 3. Although, I’m not sure which one it is.

The desperation is simply pathetic on Orlando’s part. It’s sad to see that they would even consider pursuing an entertaining basketball superstar with ZERO experience in an NBA front office. And don’t tell me that Dwight Howard wants the guy who he allegedly stole the Superman cape from him to be his boss. I don’t think anyone can comprehend this interest on the part of the Magic but thankfully for Orlando fans, Shaq says that he has no interest in the position at this time.

High Rolling

In the latest case of high-profile athletes blowing all their money, former NFL running back Jamal Lewis filed for bankruptcy. Lewis is 3 years removed from football yet this is hardly surprising. It’s another example of a professional athlete’s inability to adjust to life without receiving big fat cheques throughout the year. I understand the temptation of money, especially when so many of these guys come from nothing then suddenly having everything. But for these ex-players to be able to go through so much money so fast is unfortunate.

Guarantees in Sports

The Rangers-Devils series is over. No player on the Rangers pulled a Mark Messier and declared his team victorious before game 6 had begun. Good call, because they lost. The thing is, what would be the point of it anyways?

Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos had an attention-grabbing title to his recent article that read “Guarantees a Thing of the Past.” The article fell flat for me though mainly because he believes that no one has the “cojones” anymore to risk their legacy like Messier did. He thinks that this generation of stars doesn’t have the courage to answer a question with the honesty and boldness of Mark Messier in 1994.

Boy, is Kypreos off the mark or what? Guarantees similar to Messier’s in ’94 are a thing of the past but not because today’s stars are unwilling to risk their legacy. It’s because guarantees have become meaningless. The Joe Namath, Mark Messier type assurances don’t happen these days because too many athletes have used the line. There is no point anymore.

With the increased media coverage, guarantees can come from anywhere. They don’t get noticed all that much anymore. It’s hardly a risk to say it in 2012. Athletes don’t even have to worry if they’re wrong because it will blow over in a very short period of time.

Patrick Ewing guaranteed a win in game 6 of 2000 Conference Final playoffs, they lost. Chad Johnson guaranteed a win over the 2-5 expansion Texans back in 2002, they lost. Anthony Smith guaranteed a Steelers win over the Patriots in 2007, they lost.

Nick Kypreos is right, guarantees are a thing of the past. But only because they are as worthless as a Nick Kypreos rookie card.

French Open Coverage

NBC has the rights to the French Open and what a nice change of pace. ESPN does a good job covering Tennis’ other majors but they miss one key ingredient – John McEnroe. He makes watching matches so pleasant. Colour commentating comes so easy to him. He doesn’t need to push personality into his all around exceptional analysis because it is already there. John McEnroe doesn’t force anything. In the booth, McEnroe is like Federer was when he was playing in his prime. It almost as if he isn’t even trying.

The Dominator

At 47, Dominik Hasek is reportedly planning a return to the NHL. The idea of Hasek attempting a comeback at his age is about as preposterous as Shaq becoming the GM of the Orlando Magic. This is a pretty minor story and probably doesn’t deserve all that much press.

However, it gets me thinking about the dominator and how, ah, dominating he was. The fascinating thing about Hasek is how great of a goaltender he was despite how sharply his style contrasts with the current NHL goaltending “stars” minus Martin Brodeur. His mask tells you everything about him. He is as old school as it gets but still was able to be a very solid goaltender into his 40’s. No butterfly, no gigantic pads, no size (he’s was listed at 6’1”, 166lbs by NHL.com).

It’s refreshing to reminisce about a goalie who played the position the way it was meant to be – with pure athleticism and instincts.

TSN 2

I know that much of my readership resides in the U.S. and writing about something exclusive to Canada won’t mean anything to you Americans. But heck, I’m going to write about it anyways.

TSN appears to be the Canadian sports station with the most money as they get the vast majority of the biggest sporting events. They get so many big events that launched a 2nd channel in 2008, TSN2, to complement their original TSN channel.

However, what TSN does with TSN2 is absolutely slimy sometimes. TSN comes with the basic cable package but TSN2 does not. However, what TSN will do on a fairly regular basis is place the bigger sporting event of the day on TSN2 while TSN is showing something on a much smaller scale. They do this in order to force people to buy the package from their TV service provider that includes TSN2. Last night, while NASCAR (not important to Canadians) played on TSN’s regular channel, game 1 of the Spurs-Thunder matchup was placed on TSN2. Their French Open coverage, which starts at 5am eastern every day, is being played on TSN2. These decisions by TSN do not affect me anymore because I now have TSN2, but I know that there must be many people in Canada who don’t happen to have the extra pocket money or have yet to change their television package to include TSN2. It’s unfair to them.

I think it’s wrong that TSN is able to have the rights to these big sporting events but play them on whichever station they choose. In my view, the purpose of a second channel is to avoid conflict if there are two major sporting events on at the same time. The purpose of that second channel is not to suck people in to purchasing your second, mostly useless, channel. TSN should have to play the more important game/match on their regular channel – the one that anyone with basic cable has.

People in Canada have and are going to continue to be missing some must see TV because TSN is willing to compromise all integrity to make a little extra cash. I guess this shouldn’t be too surprising considering this is the station that callously bought the rights to the iconic Hockey Night in Canada theme song.

Western Conference Final

San Antonio is going to lose game 2. You ask, why? This one is too easy to figure out. The Spurs are 9-0 in the playoffs, have won 19 straight games and 30 of their last 32.

Clearly, they are due for a loss.

Bonus (Shameless?) Contemplation!

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Miami Heat Get the Easy Route

Maybe the road is as easy as they thought it would be

The big 3 took the low road to winning a championship. Public reaction to Lebron’s dreadful 1 hour decision special could have been mistaken for the King selling his soul to the devil for a championship.

The highway to hell looks pretty good right about now.

Prior to the beginning of the playoffs it was almost inconceivable that the Miami Heat could be staring at a title after two rounds without Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in their way. The Lakers were supposed to be the final obstacle but an inevitable meeting with the Boston Celtics meant that the team built to win 5 championships might not even get out of the second round.

Screw logic.

The Heat ousted a Celtic team that probably needed a M.A.S.H unit on site more than anything else. L.A. was swept in convincing fashion by a Maverick squad desperate to remove the dreaded choke label that has surrounded the Dirk Nowitzki era.

It wasn’t unimaginable in any sense to see the Heat overcome the Celtics. However, taking down a Boston team that has been able to turn their game on with the flip of a switch was undeniably impressive.

The Heat are now the favourites to win the 2011 NBA championship and there isn’t any reasonable logic that should suggest otherwise. Everyone knows their two biggest hurdles have been overcome, with a little help from the Dallas Mavericks.

Due to a bit of an Oprah mishap, the Heat and Bulls are forced to start their series a day earlier than expected at the United Centre on Sunday. Wait, the Chicago Bulls?

Oh yeah, the number 1 seed out of the Eastern conference.

My personal favourite writer, Jason Whitlock, recently wrote a column on FoxSports saying that the Heat are no match for the Bulls. It may be plausible but it sounds like Mr. Whitlock just wanted to turn some heads and add some extra page views for Fox’s website.

He says that “the popular narrative is the Bulls look terrible, particularly on offense, against an IQ-challenged Atlanta squad.”

Really? I think the story goes more along the lines of a number 1 seeded team struggling against a 37-win Pacer team absent of any serious firepower. The Bulls are a one man show. Carlos Boozer has been a sorry excuse for a sidekick and the absence of consistency on his part isn’t going to change under the bright lights of the Conference Finals.

The emotional high of overcoming the Celtics is nothing like the Jets advancing over New England contrary to what Whitlock attempts to point out. The Jets weren’t nearly as good a team in relative terms compared to the Heat. It’s as simple as that.

Related: Miami is Wade Country

Miami is clicking as a team and the fact that the wins came easier because of the dislocated elbow of Rondo and lack of a healthy Shaquille O’Neal shouldn’t overshadow the evidence right in front of us. More importantly, the Heat have now proved that they can win meaningful and challenging playoff games.

The popular narrative coming from the Heat players is that the 3 losses to the Bulls during the regular season don’t indicate anything. They’re saying that this is a different Heat team that we are seeing.

As much as I hate clichés, they’re exactly right. Despite the brutal play of supporting cast members like Bibby and Miller, the Heat have found a rotation that works. Starting Joel Anthony at centre instead of Big Z has injected some real life into the front court.

Rose has shot 42% from the field and a sad 25% from beyond the arc in the playoffs. If Derrick Rose is off for the Bulls it’s game over. That’s not the case for the Miami Heat.

The Heat have been blessed with a ridiculously straightforward path to a championship compared to what they could have faced. It was supposed to get harder, not easier.

It’s almost as if we are handing the Heat a championship on a silver platter. No one is doing that. Not yet. Winning a championship is never easy and I’m sure the Heat have learned that by now.

Any of the 4 other remaining teams in the playoffs can and most likely will give the Heat trouble. It’s just not the magnitude of trouble that we expected.

If the regular season has told us anything, it’s that we should have believed a lot of what we saw. There are no dominant teams and seeing last year’s NBA finalists knocked out of the second round clarified that.

Anyone would be a fool not to believe that the Miami Heat are the team to beat. Two pre-season favourites are gone and the Heat have suddenly transformed from the bunch who took the low road to the team with the easy road.

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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Shaq’s Health Holds Series in the Balance

Shaquille O'Neal is likely to be dressed sharply again for game 2

If you want to talk x-factor’s, there probably isn’t more of an x-factor than Shaquille O’Neal. They might as well put his picture beside the definition on Urban Dictionary. Then the kids will understand.

Shaq has been struggling with calf problems the past three months and his missed all five Celtic playoff games so far. Even though Shaq scrimmaged on Monday he is considered doubtful for game 2 against the Heat.

There’s an awful lot of fuss over a 39-year-old guy who averaged just over 20 minutes a game this season in 37 games. Too bad for the Celtics there is a good reason behind all the worry.

With all the intriguing position matchups the return of a healthy Shaq could represent a shift in the balance of power. Advantage Boston.

For 20 minutes a game the Heat will have no one that can stand up to the Big Diesel.

The lesser of the two O’Neal’s, Jermaine, has done a decent enough job for a guy who was supposed to be, at best, the third string center on the Celtics. Like Shaq, Jermaine O’Neal could probably also pass off as 39 year’s old out on the court. However, various health issues have taken the explosiveness out of the former perennial all-star.

The extended minutes that Jermaine has been getting are not ideal yet with Nenad Kristic only seeing 5:41 of floor time in game 1, the Celtics are going to need another solid performance from big baby-faced O’Neal.

Solid might not be enough for the Celtics though.

This is where Shaq comes in. His benefit goes far beyond the lane presence he provides. With Ilgauskas or Anthony “clogging” the lane for the Heat, Shaq forces the defence to pay attention to him. He might not have the scoring prowess that he did just two years ago but he still has the ability to take some of the pressure off of his teammates. That ability could be the difference in a game.

No matter which way you spin it, the relief his teammates receive is greater than whatever Jermaine O’Neal can offer.

Shaq even put up 18 points early in the year against the vertically endowed Memphis Grizzlies.

The mind-boggling trade of Kendrick Perkins has put the Celtics in a tough spot. Part of the reasoning behind that trade must have been the confidence in Danny Ainge that they would only face scoring challenged big men. No Dwight Howard, no problem.

I guess that plan hinged on the insurance of a healthy Shaquille O’Neal.

Maybe Danny Ainge was also thinking the lack of quality size in the Eastern Conference should allow Shaquille O’Neal to be enough of a difference maker. That plan still holds water as there is nothing to suggest that Shaq isn’t the man who holds the final key to the series.

Boston’s closing line-up may not feature a true center but if they are constantly having to claw their way back from double-digit deficits it really isn’t too important that their 4th quarter line-up features Big Baby instead of the Big Aristotle.

Doc Rivers says Shaq may be “likely” to play in game 3 at Boston. With the window of opportunity closing in on the original big three they had better hope that the 4-time champion is ready to go by Saturday.

Related: Shaq to the Celtics. Sure, why not?

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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Shaq to the Celtics. Sure, why not?

Shaquille O'Neal will be joining Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics next season

Mid-way through the 2009-10 NBA season the Boston Celtics looked to be a team on the decline. Having already won an NBA championship with the Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce in 2008, the dream of a second championship had already been wiped from the minds of much of the basketball world. Talks swirled around the trade deadline of moving Ray Allen and thus breaking up the once dominating big 3.

Move forward to the 2010 off-season, another championship finals under their belts and the big 3 still intact. The Celtics have gone out and signed the Big Diesel, Shaquille O’Neal, to a 2 year deal worth around $3 million. With the signing of Shaq, the word rebuilding has been taken out of the vocabulary of Boston Celtic fans for at least another season.

Mixed reviews have been pouring in over the bringing in of Shaquille O’Neal to the Boston Celtics, but I am definitely one who is not against it.

It is obvious to everyone that Shaq’s play has fallen off massively from his heyday with the Lakers, but quality big men are few are far between in the NBA which is part of what makes the Shaq signing logical.

With Kendrick Perkins out until possibly February following knee surgery, you have to ask what is your next best option for a big man other than Shaquille O’Neal.

There really is not much out there, and with the Celtics being one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA last season they could sure use the 7 foot 1 force in the paint.

Jermaine O'Neal had a disappointing stint with the Toronto Raptors

Of “quality” big men, the Celtics currently are sporting Jermaine O’Neal who, like Shaq, is a player well past the prime of his career. For Jermaine O’Neal, injuries have been a big problem throughout his career, and at the age of 31 he doesn’t have the same explosiveness in his legs that he had in years past. Jermaine O’Neal can still do good things for a team but is just not a solid enough interior presence. In his last 3 seasons he has maxed out at 7 rebounds per game and not to mention being constantly in and out of the line-up.

Again, like Shaq, this grizzled veteran is not going to able to carry a big load on his own. However, combine their forces and they might be able to create a formidable force up front.

The C’s are going to need Shaq on defence when it comes to stopping the NBA’s elite big men. We all saw how Kendrick Perkins was able to shut down Dwight Howard for much of the Magic-Celtic series. But without Perkins there is no way the Celtics can rely on guys like Jermaine O’Neal to get the job done defensively. Even though Shaq is one of the worst pick and roll defenders in the league, the Boston Celtics as a team are one of the best defensively, and should be able to make up for his lack of mobility in those situations.

One of the biggest knocks on Shaq at this point in his career is his detrimental effect to his team’s offence. Because of his inability to run the floor well, Shaq greatly slows done the offence and once his team’s offence gets set in the half court he clogs the lane for teammates. Moreover, Shaq no longer has the ability to dominate the paint. He doesn’t finish around the basket like he used to and his initial post position is farther from the basket.

Despite these flaws, many analysts have noted that the Boston offence is very methodical. Unlike the Phoenix Suns, the Celtics don’t rely on running and gunning. Although it should be mentioned that Rondo will face some difficulty attacking the paint like he has done in the past with Shaq there to be a bit of a road block.

Lastly, I have to talk about his so-called attitude problems. People are questioning Shaq’s ego and whether he is willing to take a reduced role without complaining.

I really don’t think this is going to be a problem at all. First off, Shaq is surrounded by a team of players who are just out to win. Who’s to say that Shaq is no different? It seems to me he just wants a championship ring for his pinkie finger and doesn’t singing a contract worth virtually nothing to him show that he is all about winning? Also, there is no way that Shaq still thinks he is still the main man in town. Again, he is surrounded by great players and the fact that nobody is willing to give him a contract with a significant amount of money should be humbling to a man of his stature.

At the beginning of the off-season I didn’t think that anyone in their right minds should sign Shaq, but the Boston Celtics situation has convinced me and it should convince you otherwise.

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

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