Dojo Sparring- 6/17-6/21

Greg to Joe

Game 6 of the NBA Finals was easily the best NBA game I have ever watched, but I have not watched a lot of NBA basketball before this year. I just thought LeBron took off in the 4th quarter and Twitter BLEW UP over the lost headband.

LeBron James with and without the headband

LeBron James with and without the headband

Then, after his ridiculous turnover, everyone was calling for LeBron’s head. He was easily the main reason the Heat do not lose that game. I don’t really think you can question it. The Spurs did, however, blow the last ten seconds of the game by not calling a timeout. My only reasoning for that is that Parker tore his hammy or hurt it significantly more. Popovich is too smart to not call a timeout there. What were your thoughts, and how do you think Game 7 goes?

Quick fantasy note, how do you think your team is looking the rest of the way? We made a good deal, I think, of Dom Brown and Tom Wilhelmsen for James Shields and Norichika Aoki. Do you think your team has a good chance to win this thing? I really think my team is by far the best if Tulo and Harper aren’t hurt the rest of the way. But there is a long way to go and we are playing each other this week by the way.

Domonic Brown

Domonic Brown

Joe to Greg

The Heat live and die by the play of LeBron, there’s no doubting that. My problem with the Heat’s strategy was too many consecutive iso’s for James. More than five times Lebron was guarded by Kawhi Leonard and Mario Chalmers, being guarded by Tony Parker, would come set a pick and cause a switch that resulted in Parker guarding James one-on-one. In the NBA, its all about matchups but James didn’t take advantage of the smaller Parker, or maybe he took advantage of him but not as much as he could. The reason the Spurs lost this game falls back on the blown timeout call with ten seconds left in OT with Parker on the bench and also FREE THROWS. Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Leonard all went to the charity stripe with under three minutes to play. Each of them went 1 for 2 on their free throws, essentially giving up 3 free points that could have sealed the deal. I think Parker was pulled from the game because of the hammy issues and also because Popovich didn’t like when Parker had to switch and defend James. The other HUGE play was as the time ran down, I believe it was James who took the shot to tie the game, misses it, Chris Bosh comes up with the biggest play he’s made in a Heat uniform and grabs the rebound, who dishes it to Ray Allen and the rest is history. My question is, why isn’t Tim Duncan on the floor? You trust Boris Diaw in the last ten seconds of the game to guard Bosh when Duncan finished with 30 points and 17 rebounds? I think the momentum carries the Heat to Game 7 win. My heart says the Heat win but my pick is the Spurs 95, Heat 91. Your prediction?

On the flip side, I really like my fantasy team. I think one of the biggest factors in a successful fantasy team is balance across the board, but more specifically balance between power hitters (such as Prince Fielder/Nelson Cruz for me and Robinson Cano/Tulo for you) and your strong role players (someone like a Daniel Nava/Carlos Gomez for me and Omar Infante/Norichika Aoki for you). Also balance between your starting pitchers and closers. Too many starters may result in higher ERA and WHIP, too many closers and you don’t have enough wins and K’s. Since you and I have been 1-2 in our division the whole way, I think whoever wins the league comes from our division, between either your team, my team, or Grant’s team.

Greg to Joe

You’re right, the Spurs were ONE rebound or ONE free throw from an NBA Title. Duncan not being in at the end of the 4th quarter was a bit confusing too. I have no explanation for that. I really don’t understand the no timeout and then no Parker, in the last 10 seconds, on offense at least. I really think the only explanation for this is a hurt hamstring. I really do not see any other reason. Pop is honestly way too smart for that. I can’t question Pop, he is a genius and if he does something, he definitely has a reason for it. Much smarter basketball mind than both of us. With regards to Miami’s offense revolving around LeBron, its just how the team is designed. The team is not designed to beat a top NBA team without a LeBron scoring 30 points and getting 10 boards and 10 assists. And yes, LeBron missed the game tying shot, but he willed his team back into the game after being down 10 points going into the 4th quarter.

For Game 7, I wrote this yesterday… Game 6 winner will be the NBA champion. So, I’m sticking to it.

Jay Pharoah impression of Stephen A. Smith

Jay Pharoah impression of Stephen A. Smith

There is NO WAY (Stephen A. Smith voice) the Heat lose this game. LeBron finally had a good quarter and he is going to carry that into a MONSTER game 7. I’m talking 40 points, 15 assists and at least 10 boards. I also think Parker is done. He might have a good 1st half in Game 7, but he won’t be able to have a good 2nd half. His hamstring is bothering him too much; he has not had 2 good halves in a game since Game 1. Heat will be repeat champions with a 98-89 win. And I think when everyone looks back at this series, people will think Game 6 decided the series and that’s the game everyone remembers.

So I think you’re wrong about the ERA and WHIP thing. I agree that with too many closers, you don’t win K’s for the week. But closers, and relievers in general, can DESTROY an ERA. If they give up 5 runs in 2 innings pitched for the week, you get tattooed with a 22.50 ERA from them for the week. Also, this is why I think our league format is dumb. Head to Head leagues for fantasy baseball is the dumbest thing in fantasy sports. I can’t say that enough. EXAMPLE: Say you had Mike Trout and Stephen Strasburg last year. They carry your team all year. Then come playoff time, Trout cools down, and Strasburg is shut down. ALL OF THEIR STATS FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR JUST GO OUT THE WINDOW!!!! 140 or so games… GONE! Next year, it should be a roto league. Count stats from all year and be ranked based on those stats. Baseball and football are totally different sports. Baseball is a marathon and football is a sprint. Baseball should count stats for all year and football can be week to week because it is such a matchup league and that’s part of fantasy football, exploiting the matchups.

But this year, I might be able to take advantage of our league format. My team will make the playoffs regardless and come playoff time, I think Harper and Tulo will be back to form and it should help carry me through the postseason. I really think it is going to come down to us 3. Thats about it. Sorry Chris…

Joe to Greg

It pains me to say that my gut says the Heat win Game 7 even though I really really really really don’t want them to. Talk about some legacy’s at stake for this game now:

Scenario 1: Spurs win…Tim Duncan goes 5-0 in NBA Finals series and 2-0 versus LeBron, for some bragging rights. He wins 3 championships in 3… 3 different decades, which is one of the biggest achievements you can hope for as a professional athlete. Duncan gets a bump into the conversation of top five players EVER with his 5th ring and easily regarded as either the number 1 or 2 power-forward to ever play the game. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili each get their 4th ring, essentially locking up Hall of Fame honors for them. The flip side, Lebron drops to 1-3 in NBA Finals series (Losing 1 with Cleveland and 2 with Miami). The Heat Big 3 are going to receive loads of criticism for their performance. Mainly Wade for pulling a Houdini and showing up every other game and Bosh for doing “Bosh-like things”.

Chris Bosh & Dinosaur

Chris Bosh & Dinosaur

Scenario 2: Heat win…Tim Duncan still has an incredible resume, but this one will be remembered as the one that got away from him. Ginobili regardless of winning a title probably retires since he isn’t the same Manu anymore. James grabs his 2nd ring, Wade his 3rd, and Bosh his 2nd. The LeBron train keeps on chugging as more people question whether or not the Heat can be stopped even though after every Heat loss, the media act as though the Heat have hit rock bottom.

Lets put it this way, If the Heat win, then the media goes crazy covering them and their success. If the Spurs win, then the media goes crazy covering the Heat as James, Bosh, and Wade enter the final years of their contracts for the upcoming season. Meaning that next summer, we will have another “Decision” to worry about.

I’m siding with you on the baseball aspect in terms of the proper format to use. While its hard for me to comment on the varying styles of the format, I can see flaws using Head-to-Head. The case with any fantasy team, whether that be baseball, football, basketball, or hockey, is whose team is hot come playoff time and whose team has less injuries. Two prime examples, Sidney Crosby getting hurt and missing the last 13 games of the regular season ended up costing someone’s team a chance to advance to the championship. The other example is football, when Adrian Peterson, who always performs well, started going off towards the tail end of the season, the person who had him on their team rode his performances straight to a championship. Baseball is very interesting though because of what you mentioned about Strasburg. When a pitcher of his caliber gets shut down, it hurts your team more than you think. In your opinion is it more detrimental to your team to have a pitcher get shut down/hurt or a batter shut down/hurt?

Greg to Joe

I can’t wait for the summer of 2014 for the next LeBron decision. I hope he goes back to Cleveland, but I am not so sure he does. I also think legacy talk is ridiculous. Championships are won by teams. If people are measuring players about the amount of championships they win, they are basically saying that basketball is an individual’s sport. And you can tell, if your watching these NBA Finals, it is clearly a team sport. The better team wins the game. LeBron carried his team, but if Bosh doesn’t get that rebound and Allen doesn’t hit that three, LeBron’s effort does not matter.

It depends on the make-up of your team for the most part when it comes to players getting hurt at the end of the year on your fantasy team. If all things being equal, I would say pitcher if we are talking top 5 pitcher, but otherwise hitter. With a top pitcher, like Clayton Kershaw, you are almost guaranteed to win 3 categories (ERA, WHIP, & K’s) in a two start week. You are pretty much always given at least one win as well. So if you lose a two start week in the postseason, you’re done. You cannot make that up, unless you stream starters insanely well in his place. Otherwise, a hitter hurts more because they play everyday and it costs valuable counting stats (RBI’s, runs, home runs, stolen bases).

Joe to Greg

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James

For the fun of it, I say LeBron joins Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Alonzo Gee, and their #1 pick this year (side note: It must SUCK to be a Charlotte Bobcats fan since they missed out on the #1 pick in back to back years). D-Wade and Bosh stay with the Heat. Other noticeable free agents for the summer of 2014: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, Rudy Gay, Paul George, Zach Randolph, and John Wall. I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to be in for a treat next summer. One of these names won’t be with their team come the 2014-2015 season.

I think losing an ace on your fantasy staff hurts you in the long run because pitchers are harder to come by once the draft goes by. Especially in a 10 team league, you really have find the diamond in the rough among the free agents. Like any fantasy team, you have to draft well in the later rounds; luckily for me, I picked R.A. Dickey extremely late last year and I think that was a good pick to say the least. On a week-to-week basis, missing a hitter, like you missing Bryce Harper, hurts you because of his power and his ability to get on base.

Greg quick Bobcats response:

Maybe it’s a good thing because they will suck again and get the # 1 pick next year and get to draft Andrew Wiggins (the next NBA superstar).

Greg Danchik & Joe Meola

 

Who is LeBron James? – Guest Contribution

Great players and their careers are defined by great moments. It’s the walk-off homeruns, the fourth quarter touchdowns, the buzzerbeaters. It’s Jordan draining over Ehlo. It’s Eli Manning to David Tyree. It’s Joey Chestnut going America on our asses and eating 68 hot dogs. When their team needs it most, the best become the best, obliterating anyone and everyone impeding their path to the pinnacle of the sports world. An interesting case, however, is that of a player with superhuman skills, strength, and speed.The most dominant force of nature among all athletes: LeBron James.

LeBron James at the Miami Heat welcome party

LeBron James at the Miami Heat welcome party

His well-documented career has had moments both high and low, not to mention moments where you wonder how he graduated high school. That being said, no moment means more to LeBron’s career than tonight’s Game 6 and the Game 7 that, for the sake of his legacy, simply has to happen. So, LeBron, please, please make it happen.

No career of any athlete has EVER resembled that of LeBron’s (Bryce Harper‘s might). A high school prodigy, LeBron was long labeled the next MJ. On the cover of Sports Illustrated as a teenager, the hype and expectations that followed James was exponential. They skyrocketed even higher when he was drafted by his hometown Cavaliers, destined to save the perennial bottom feeder. But, we all know what happens next. The self-proclaimed “King James” transitioned seamlessly into the NBA, winning Rookie of the Year, a couple of MVPs, and becoming the new face of the league. While he was with Cleveland, they were the class of the Eastern Conference, but, for some reason, they never made it over the hump in the playoffs. Year after year, LeBron’s Cavs were the title favorites. Year after year, LeBron’s Cavs faltered. Why? I have no idea. All I can say is LeBron seemed to shrink from the moment.

LeBron never saw an NBA Title with the Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron never saw an NBA Title with the Cleveland Cavaliers

That all changed last year. In his second year in Miami, LeBron shined in the NBA Finals, finally becoming the dominant and clutch player we all wanted him to be. And that’s the kicker, we all wanted LeBron to get there. Here’s a guy with limitless talent, unmatched potential; he could end up being the best ever. Everyone, whether they knew it or not, was rooting for LeBron, if for nothing else than to see a transcendent player reach his peak. Last year, he finally reached that peak.

But here we are,the 2013 NBA Finals, and his Heat are down 3-2. Along the way, James has been dominant, but he has also turned in some pretty pedestrian performances, looking a lot like 2010 Cleveland LeBron rather than the 2012 Miami LeBron, the one we all expect him to be. Sure, D-Wade hasn’t consistently been himself and Chris Bosh has done little more than provide comic relief. However, it is not like LeBron has been lacking support (that argument alone brings me back to his Cleveland days). The smaller two of the big three have turned in some quality games, but, ultimately, everything rides on James. Everything. I cannot stress that enough. If he turns into the alien beast capable of dropping a 30-10-10 with his eyes closed, there is no way that Miami loses. Those performances transcend basketball, and he just makes it look so easy when he does it.

So, alright Lebron, it’s time to do this. You set the standard. You want to be remembered with Jordan? With Magic? With Bird? With Russell?

3 NBA Greats: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan

3 NBA Greats: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan

You want to be the best ever? Well, okay then, this is your moment.

 Will Garrett

Point Guard Power Part 1- Guest Contribution

 

Tony Parker Jump shot in Game 1 of the NBA Finals

Tony Parker Jump shot in Game 1 of the NBA Finals

Tony Parker started at the top of the key, drove right, bounced out to underneath the three point line, fell down, kept his dribble with his back to the basket, undercut LeBron James’ stifling defense, double clutched a shot from 15 feet away while in midair right before the shot clock buzzed, banked high off the back board, bounced on the front of the rim for a split second, and fell through the hoop. That shot gave the Spurs a four-point lead with less than six seconds remaining and with that, clinched Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Parker turned towards his bench, gave a huge fist bump and screamed as his teammates swarmed him during the timeout. Was everyone in Miami shocked at what had taken place? Yes. Was Tony Parker shocked at what had taken place? No.

While at the age of 31, Tony Parker continues to prove to the NBA world why he has no signs of slowing down. With Jason Kidd stepping down from the game of basketball last week, the NBA community said good-bye to one of the last pure point guards to play the game. Kidd finished second all-time in assists (12,091), third all-time in three point shots made (1988), and second all-time in steals (2684). In the 1,391 games, spread throughout Kidd’s 19-season career, Kidd led the league in assists five times. More importantly, he managed to win one NBA championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. Kidd knows how to play through adversity and understands the mental toughness of winning on the NBA’s biggest stage, which is something that Tony Parker knows a little about as well.

Parker entered the league as the 28th pick in the 2001 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs. He was the last pick of the first round behind guys like Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry, who were in the top 5 picks. He has enjoyed any basketball player’s dream by winning not one, but three championships along the way and has exemplified what teams look for in a potential player: loyalty, modesty, and heart. He has performed at the highest level for over ten years and every game we see something new from him. Such as his late game heroics in Game 1 of the finals. As the shot trickled through the rim, his reaction wasn’t surprise or shock, it was confidence and poise. Something that is extremely valued at this point in the season. Tony Parker’s game has evolved over the past four years and as he’s gotten older, his numbers continue to improve.

Year

MPG

PPG

APG

RPG

3pt%

FT%

2009-2010

30.9

16.0

5.7

2.4

.294

.756

2010-2011

32.4

17.5

6.6

3.1

.357

.769

2011-2012

32.0

18.3

7.7

2.9

.230

.799

2012-2013

32.9

20.3

7.6

3.0

.353

.845

At this point in Parker’s career, he is approaching the end of his prime. He knows his chances to capture another championship becomes harder and harder. The competitiveness of the league is growing stronger and knowing full well that this could end up being Parker’s last time on the big stage; he isn’t going to let it go to waste. While every team and player aspires for the chance to play in the NBA Finals, the harsh reality is that only one team can win. Tony Parker knows this situation all too well. He’s taken the passenger seat when the Spurs won it all behind Tim Duncan in 2003 and 2005 but he also knows when to take control, earning himself the NBA Finals MVP following his third championship in 2007. It’s been a longer time in between finals appearances but the time away from the big stage hasn’t changed Parker’s mindset. Like Jason Kidd, Parker resembles some of the old-school basketball that seems to be disappearing in today’s game. Whether this lack of old-school basketball is for better or worse remains to be seen but as the game changes, Parker only gets better.

Tony Parker’s play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals showed us something. He makes every possession count, evidence by an impressive zero turnover night. In the fourth quarter alone, Parker scored ten of his twenty-one points and started pushing the ball in transition. When there was a missed shot, he ran to the ball, pushed the ball up the court, and executed the offense. The quick transition from defense to offense forced the Heat to be mentally focused at all times, which is one of the reasons that the Spurs were able to stay in the game and eventually take the lead. Eventually, as more and more attention is directed towards Parker, the floor becomes easier to read for him. With roughly 2:20 left in the game, the Spurs were leading 85-81. Gregg Popovich started hollering out orders for the offensive set, making sure players were in the correct spots. This is usually the time where the team with the lead starts to soak up the clock and waste time. Parker noticed Miami lackadaisically coming back on defense and upon receiving the ball, rushed up the left side, passes the ball to Manu Ginobili who finds Danny Green for a three, making the game 88-81 Spurs, with 2:10 left.

The NBA Finals are always full of defining moments that go down in history and become part of NBA folklore. While Danny Green’s three may not be one of those moments, the play speaks the style of Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs. They aren’t looking for the open shot on offense; they’re looking for the right shot. This is what Tony Parker creates with his tempo at the point guard position. Knowing the difference between when to slow down and when to speed up is crucial in crunch time and was the difference in Game 1. If Parker were to slow the game down and hold till the last moments of the shot clock on the Danny Green possession, Danny Green never gets to take that shot and you’re now looking at a rushed shot to beat the shot clock. The Heat are now only down five with two minutes remaining, as opposed to down eight with 2 minutes remaining. As a point guard in the NBA, controlling the tempo of a game is imperative to winning. Seeing Jason Kidd leave the NBA is difficult in that respect because he was always a pass-first, team-oriented player. He stepped up in games when he had to and controlled the tempo, just as Parker was able to do in Game 1. Parker now becomes one of very few point guards to have this style of play. While it’s hard to depict what Parker embodies as a point guard, there is a clear change in the way the position has been played and managed in the last ten years. Has that changed Parker’s game though? I’m obliged to say no.

Stay tuned for Part II. Discussing the ways the point guard position has changed over the last ten years as we break down each starting point-guard from the 2013 NBA Playoffs.

Joe Meola

Benches Clearing Brawls- Guest Contribution

While watching the Monday Night Baseball game between the Red Sox and the Rays with my dad, a benches clearing brawl (for lack of a better word) occurred after Red Sox pitcher John Lackey threw a fastball right between the numbers of Rays hitter Matt Joyce, who had homered his previous at-bat. It was at this time that a stream of consciousness came running through my head.

Now in hockey, when two guys drop the gloves, everyone knows they certainly mean it. I don’t even want to know what goes on in the pile during a scrum for a loose football in the NFL. Even in the NBA, about once a year or so, you actually see significant violence take place (flopping discussion for another day). However, in baseball, what ultimately gets accomplished? It’s a glorified pushing match, and more often than not, the hitter and the pitcher have 3-4 players between them before anything resembling a punch can be thrown. The benches clear, followed by the bullpens, which is a ridiculous conversation in its own right, and ends up being a waste of time in an already slow-paced game. Simply put, it’s just an all-around bad look for baseball, a sport which constantly gets knocked for being soft.

Just ask Zack Greinke who got injured trying to defend himself after hitting Carlos Quentin during a game in the beginning of the season that didn’t even matter because let’s face it, the Padres were involved. Before that, nothing that significant has happened when a batter charged the mound since Pedro Martinez knocked over Don Zimmer in ’03.

Pedro Martinez and Don Zimmer Brawl

Pedro Martinez and Don Zimmer Brawl

Now I’m all for backing up your teammates and protecting your guys, especially in a sport where you spend over half of the year together as a unit, but I think as long as charging the mound is permitted, they should just let the two guys duke it out like men. I mean, what better way is there to teach a guy not to throw at you again than taking him out of the game because he can’t stand up? Same thing goes from a pitchers perspective since I most certainly would not charge a guy like C.C. Sabathia, who could probably throw me back to the dugout from which I came. The shoving matches don’t accomplish anything for anybody, except make me want to change the channel.

Lost in all of these thoughts was the worst part of the whole thing, which is John Lackey. Who, after making quick work of 8 consecutive batters, nails Joyce and proceeds to mouth, “I didn’t do that [expletive] on purpose!” Really? So that one just slipped away from you, and it just so happens that you waited to get back around to the guy in the lineup who just took you yard. At least man up to what you explicitly did and don’t wait until your third baseman comes and restrains you before you start acting like a tough guy.

Chris Turner