Clippers vs. Spurs, Manny vs. Money, and the NFL Draft vs. Attention SpansPosted: May 5, 2015
Derek: “Stop writing about wrestling! No one cares! Why don’t you write about the NBA? Or the NHL? Or do NFL Draft stuff?”
Hey, shut up, you! Cards on the table: I’m not going to pretend I know something when I don’t. I like basketball, but there’s too much of it to keep up with and write about when you combine my real job and the time difference in Korea. I’m lucky to catch one NBA game a week, so I’m not going to pretend I’m in the know when I only have time to skim box scores. It didn’t help that the Hornets horribly underachieved.
Hockey is incredible in the Olympics, but I can’t really get into it without a rooting interest. I mildly support the Carolina Hurricanes, but all I know about them is they suck and they have the market cornered on Staals. I have difficulty rooting for teams populated with the very Canadians I rooted against in the Olympics.
And the Draft? Well, let’s just say I don’t have much interest in watching the NFL Combine.
So here’s the plan. We’re going to have something up for every Game 7 of the NBA Playoffs. Clippers-Spurs was the first, so we’re going to cover that one here.
But wait, there’s more! We also caught the NFL Draft and the fight, so we’ll cover those too. Excelsior!
Clippers vs. Spurs
Derek: Chris Paul is a monster.
Watching the poor guy hobble around for most of the game was like watching a wounded thoroughbred. He looked like he could barely move. Yet, he had the two biggest plays of the game. Everyone knows about his last second winner, but that 37-footer at the end of the third quarter was insane. It looked equally incredible and painful. I don’t know how one could play meaningful basketball with a messed up hamstring. I couldn’t help but wonder how much he messed himself up for the rest of the playoffs.
No big deal, though. He’s covered by Danny Green, then Duncan, then throws it up falling away on one leg with one second to go. Then in the post-game interview says “Lets go find somewhere to watch the fight.” What a badass.
Care to wax poetic for a moment on North Carolina’s own Chris Paul?
Will: It was a gorgeous game, and a gorgeous series. The two sides were perfectly even but oddly disparate in their approaches. The Spurs attacked the same way they have for the past decade or two — I liken playing against them to resisting waves in the ocean — an orchestra with celebrated players that is always greater than the sum of its parts. The Clippers are more rock ‘n roll, complete with bitching and moaning, led by lead guitarists Paul and Griffin.
Paul was superb. He is among the best defenders in the league (as shown by Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry), he’s long been one of the top passers, and he just controls the game when he’s on the floor. You never forget about him. He has gotten something of a bad rap for never having made it to the Conference Finals, and that makes this victory all the sweeter. That last shot was incredible.
Derek: The ending smelled slightly of shenanigans because of the inadvertent buzzer. The Clippers were at home, they’re starved for playoff victories, and Steve Ballmer is insane. The Spurs bench absolutely showered the scorer’s table in F-bombs, so that was fun. It looked for a split second like the Spurs would pull it out in a very Spursy way, but alas.
Will: There was something wonderfully dissonant about seeing the series end with the Spurs, the calm, collected, mature team, hollering at the officials while the mopey Clippers benefited.
Derek: The Clippers have already taken Game 1 from the Rockets, and the “Is this the end?” Spurs speculation is already in overdrive. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Spurs because of this and the aftermath. Sure, it was eight years ago, but that game and the ensuing suspensions were part of a really underrated screwjob.
Still, you have to respect them. They can never be counted out, no matter what. I think of them kind of how I would think of the Patriots if I didn’t hate them. Do you think Duncan will retire and put an end to the Spurs dynasty? If so, will you miss it?
Will: I don’t think Duncan is done yet. I think he loves playing basketball more than we suspect, if only because his stoic nature belies a passion for anything. Why not come back and play 60-some games at 20-some minutes per night? The Spurs could well attract a premier free agent or two, and they’re a lock to re-sign Kawhi Leonard. Manu Ginobili might call it quits, and maybe Duncan will too, but I don’t think he’s ready to leave the Spurs yet. Popovich knows how to take care of him.
I will absolutely miss this iteration of the Spurs if it ever does actually end. What other team could look at any of Boris Diaw, Danny Green, and Patty Mills and see important contributor? They just don’t make sense compared to what we expect from pro basketball. Gregg Popovich is super into wine. They have always been a little off, like that one kid in high school who does his own thing — only years later do you realize how far ahead of the game he was.
Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather
Derek: I have never seen a good boxing match live. I’ve probably only seen about 10, but the only one that was memorable was Pacquiao-Bradley I, and that was only because the outcome was ridiculous.
Mayweather and Pacquiao only have a few fights left, and they may fight each other one more time. When they retire, boxing is done. I only vaguely know the other top boxers. I’d rather watch wrestling (surprise!) or MMA. Granted, I’m only speaking for myself here, but I can’t imagine I’m alone. Who is going to shell out money for boxing pay-per-views? Any of the casual or ultra casual fans who dropped $100 to watch Mayweather run away from a guy with a torn rotator cuff will remember that the next time they have the option of shelling out money for a fight.
And really, money is what it comes down to. There are plenty of things that have ruined boxing, but pay-per-view is the top culprit in my mind. Just how exactly do they plan on attracting new fans? MMA and WWE have pay-per-views, but they also have big fights on TV. People who are new to the sport have a starting point. How the hell is someone supposed to get hooked on boxing? Their last hope was top-billed superstars, and after Manny and Mayweather, they’re gone.
Am I off-base here? Does boxing have any sort of a future?
Will: Nope, I’m afraid you’re right. I mean, can you name five other active boxers right now? If so, have you seen any of them in the past five years? I’m no huge boxing fan, but plenty of writing is on the wall. The heavyweight division has been reduced to the brothers Klitschko, who will never fight each other. Smaller fighters like Mayweather and Pacquiao, and Oscar de la Hoya and Roy Jones Jr. before them, move the needle, but not like the celebrity heavyweights of yore.
The generally abhorrent nature of Mayweather does the sport no favors. He is a known woman-beater, but it often seems that his outward arrogance and transparent thirst for money in light of that is an even greater sin. He dares to prove that if you have enough money and/or talent in America, you can do anything. Worse, we just proved him right; he took home an estimated $180 million.
The coarse underbelly of the sport — corruption, theft, that time Don King literally beat a guy to death — has long been a perverse part of boxing’s charm. It’s fine when all you hear are legends, sort of like JFK sleeping with Marilyn Monroe, but it doesn’t play so well when it’s on TV or the internet. The same goes for brain injuries. When you’re forced to actually think about all of this, it’s tough to excuse, and even tougher to bankroll with a clean conscience.
Derek: As for the fight itself, the spectacle outshone anything happening in the ring. Mayweather, an American fighting on American soil against a foreigner, was booed throughout the evening. The crowd was 80-90% pro-Pacquiao, depending on whom you believe. That takes some doing. Right now, on Deadspin, you can read a column entitled “Floyd Mayweather is a Coward.” The author claims “the only time (Mayweather) ever goes on the offensive is when he’s fighting a woman.” That would be the undefeated champion and most famous boxer in the world. It’s really astonishing how universally despised he is.
I don’t really know anything about how to score a boxing match, but I thought Pacquiao had the upper hand around the sixth round. He at least seemed to be trying to hurt Mayweather, and he had him backed into a corner a couple times. But Mayweather did Mayweather things as we yawned ourselves to another victory.
What did you think of the fight? Would you watch Mayweather-Pacquiao II?
Will: I thought it was better than most seem to, if only because Mayweather is so freaking quick. I couldn’t help but be impressed with his defensive tactics. Even when Pacquiao unloaded on him in the corners or against the ropes, he never really hurt Floyd. That’s the real issue with this fight: there were no more than a few punches of real consequence.
We want our fighters, and especially our champions, to go for the knockout. That’s what we have been brought up on, if only in Rocky movies. The worst thing about Mayweather — one of the worst things, anyway — is that he knows he doesn’t have to.
The NFL Draft
Derek: I used to be really into the NFL Draft. I guess I still am, to some degree, but I don’t follow it as maniacally as I used to. This is mainly because I look at the prospects through my Seahawk-colored glasses and have an idea of who I would pick in each round. Naturally, it never works out.
The first time it happened was in 2003, when I was all-in on Mike Doss from Ohio State. The Seahawks needed secondary help and I just knew they would take Doss if they had the chance. They took cornerback Marcus Trufant in the first round, and did indeed take a safety in the second round. However, it was Ken Hamlin from Arkansas. The Colts took Doss 16 picks later and I was devastated. Hamlin had a better career, though, so this was also around the time I learned I have no idea what I’m talking about.
Will: I loved Mike Doss. If only he could have plugged holes in the Big Ten for his whole life.
Derek: Anyway, the Hamlin scenario repeated itself over the years and I decided to just read about some of the top guys and just sit back and enjoy. Then I could read thorough scouting reports after the fact.
The draft was the most boring in recent memory. After all the talk of trades, none were made, and most of the top picks went exactly as every mock draft predicted. Only the Redskins deviated when they took Brandon Scherff at number five when Leonard Williams was still on the board. So, other than Roger Goodell mispronouncing Marcus Mariota’s name and the internal debate over whether I’d rather have Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon on a fantasy team, the first round passed with little fanfare. I tried watching the later rounds, but NFL Network was more interested in unwatchable puff pieces than draft updates.
How was it for you? Did you like the Browns’ picks? Were you bummed that they didn’t trade up for Mariota?
Will: I’m happy with the Browns draft. They took a couple linemen with their two first-rounders, and they shored up positions that made sense to shore up. They could have used a starry receiver, but I’m always a fan of beefing up the lines. Maybe Mariota will turn out to be a star, but I don’t think I could handle another first-round QB and Johnny on one team.
I’m not nearly as interested in the draft as I used to be, either. I think it’s mostly because I never have any idea if any of these guys are going to be any good. No one does, really. Even scouts and GMs, the people tasked with studying this stuff year-round, whiff fairly regularly.
Remember when (and I’m sorry to bring this up) Aaron Curry was the surest pick on the board? It was widely thought that, even if he won’t be a Hall of Famer, he’ll at least be a solid starter? He’s with the 49ers now — the Charlotte 49ers. He’s their defensive line coach.
Derek: The Seahawks were without a first round pick for the third straight year. They finally got to pick someone with the 63rd pick, which they used on Michigan defensive end Frank Clark. He’s a versatile pass rusher who sounds a lot like Bruce Irvin. Funny, because he may have been drafted to be Irvin’s replacement.
I’m much more excited about their third rounder. The Seahawks traded up to take Tyler Lockett at #69, and the more I read about him the more excited I am. He had 106 receptions (T-4th in NCAA), 1,505 yards (3rd), and 11 touchdowns (13th) last year. That’s exciting! But what’s more exciting is how he fared against top competition. Here’s how he did against opponents that were ranked at the end of the year:
vs. #22 Auburn – 6 rec, 45 yards, 3 kick returns for 71 yards
@ #3 TCU – 11 rec, 196 yards, TD, 3 kick returns for 75 yards
@ #7 Baylor (Big 12 Championship) – 14 rec, 158 yards, TD, 1 kick return for 14 yards
vs. #10 UCLA (Alamo Bowl) – 13 rec, 164 yards, 2 TD, 3 kick returns for 44 yards
He’s a small, quick receiver who can be lethal in space. To quote his scouting report: “Team captain as a junior and senior. Respectful, polite and accountable. Has come out of his shell since early in his career and has taken on a strong vocal leadership role. Excellent football character.” In other words, he sounds like a small, sane version of Percy Harvin. He’s apparently a very good return man, which the Seahawks desperately need after the departure of Harvin and Golden Tate. I’d rather not see Earl Thomas fielding punts again.
As you can tell, Lockett is my favorite Seahawks draftee. Who are you excited to see in a massively updated Browns uniform for the first time?
Will: The guy I’m rooting for the most is definitely Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, a seventh-round pick from Oregon. He’s a little undersized at 5-foot-9, but he was a first-team All-American in 2014. The only reason he fell to the last round is that he tore his ACL in a December practice. He’s in decent financial shape after taking out a huge insurance policy on himself before the season, but it still sucks that he went from potential first-round pick to barely drafted.
It’s the sort of late-round pick that makes sense. You might find a special teams contributor or strike oil digging in the late rounds, but why not swing for the fences? Ekpre-Olomu has no major personal issues (read: hasn’t been caught with a sack of weed), and if he can get healthy, maybe he returns to his All-America form. It’s not like the Browns have anything to lose.
Man, all this non-wrasslin’ talk is exhausting. Is it Wednesday yet?