Full Court Press: NBA, Wimbledon and World Cup

It’s been a while since I’ve written, as I’ve been searching for something new to write about (one can only write about the NBA so many times.)  Fortunately, this week has been positively loaded, with major events taking place in several sports.  I’ll do my best to tackle all of them.

First off, I have to say a few words about the finals.  The series showed how much of a Jekyll and Hyde team the Celtics have been all year.  When they were on top of their game, they were sure to win.  But they failed to rise to the occasion several times throughout the series, particularly in a dreadful game six in which they didn’t even compete with the Lakers.  LA on the other hand, never suffered a blow out, played relatively well all season and executed with ruthless defense in two must win home games.  LA’s performance was far from brilliant, but it was quite effective.

What can we expect for next year?  Nobody can say.  The league hinges on the free agency of players such as LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.  Their eventual decisions will certainly have an effect on the league.  It depends on whether the Oklahoma City Thunder, the surprise of this season, will continue to grow.  It depends on whether Boston breaks down or another contender emerges.  But one has to think that the Lakers enter the season as the favorite.

While we’re on the topic of the NBA, I’m going to comment on the draft, which occurred last night.  The Wizards and Sixers, recipients of Wall and Turner, will improve, if only slightly.  The Nets rolled the dice on Derrick Favors, but without a sure thing on the board, it was a good choice.  Those three picks were fairly open and shut.

The Timberwolves surprised everybody by selecting Wes Johnson rather than DeMarcus Cousins.  Johnson is well-sized, an efficient scorer, a good rebounder and an apparently level-headed guy.  Cousins is an excellent physical specimen, a potential star and a potential head-case.  Were the T-Wolves wrong to pass up on Cousins?

Not necessarily.  Based on the little we know about Minnesota GM David Kahn, I think he’s all about the safe bet.  They drafted Ricky Rubio, a stud Spanish point guard, then drafted Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn just in case Rubio did not want to leave his good situation in Spain.  Now, he’s making yet another security pick by drafting Johnson, who will likely be decent, over Cousins, who could be great but could be a flame-out.  Would you bet on Cousins surviving in Minny without something bad happening?  I don’t either.

Here’s the catch.  Picking Jonny Flynn may have driven Rubio away from the T-Wolves.  Now their second safe bet, selecting Johnson, will be universally slammed if Cousins blossoms into a star.  That’s the problem with the safe bet:  it’s not even remotely exciting for the fans, and you look really dumb if you’re wrong.  I don’t think Kahn can afford to be wrong again.

However, this draft is great for Sacramento, who now can pair Cousins with stud guard Tyreke Evans (with potentially delicious results).  I do not know whether Minnesota was wrong to pass on Cousins, but I have no doubt that he is a much better fit for the Kings than he is for the Timberwolves.  I’m looking forward to Evans and Cousins.  I would not look forward to Cousins and whoever else plays for the Timberwolves.  I think this worked out well for the league.

That’s all for the draft.  We now need wait and find out how these guys play.  Then we can see who was right…and who is fired.

Moving across the ocean to England, we saw Wimbledon open with a wild first week.  Roger Federer, perhaps the most decorated tennis player of all time, nearly lost his very first Wimbledon match.  Federer fell behind by two sets before storming back into the competition, winning three sets to two.  Wimbledon’s king then needed four sets to win his second match.

Federer, suddenly appearing beatable on grass, could be facing a major upset.  What does this mean?  Federer, with a clearly cemented legacy, does not need another Wimbledon title to ensure his place in history.  But it would be a serious blow to his current dominance.  However, we cannot truly know with Federer, who seems to rise again with a vengeance each time he appears finished.  Stay tuned.

But the big story at Wimbledon was the marathon match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut.  For three days, these two men engaged in a match that shattered an uncountable number of records.  The two men played for nearly twelve hours over three days.  The two men served over 150 aces.  Their fifth set, which consisted of 138 games was longer than all five sets of any other tennis match ever.

I cannot comprehend what it must have been like to play in that game.  The two men both deserve medals for their incredible athletic achievements.  And they deserve media coverage for the way they captivated even casual tennis fans for about 30 hours.  This is why I love tennis:  anything can happen.

But the biggest story of the week in my opinion comes all the way from South Africa.  The United States, soccer weaklings, managed to score in the final moments and secure a Group C title.  As somebody who watched the game, I cannot completely describe how exhilarating it was to see the Americans go from disappointments to heroes with a single display of will.

The World Cup 2010 slogan reads “One Game Changes Everything”.  And they’re right.  One game can change everything.  Suddenly, even though it may not last even for another week, the US is caught up in soccer fever.  All because of a team that dared to dream, stuck to their dream and willed themselves to an epic victory.  Will they beat Ghana this weekend?  Will they go even further than their quarterfinals berth of 2002?  Will they win it all?

We all know that the answer to the last question is no.  The question to the first two questions may be no as well.  But simply speculating is unbelievable.  And we can speculate, we can dream, we can believe that it is possible.  And it’s all because of the one game, the intoxicating victory over Algeria that taught Americans to believe in their boys.

The US likely has no future in this World Cup.  But because of their sheer will, their heart, their strength, they live to fight for at least one more game.  And every American gets to anticipate one more game from their team.  Every dream needs a starting point.

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