Monthly Archives: June 2012

Youth is wasted on the young – the inexperience of the Oklahoma City Thunder

Following the Oklahoma City Thunder’s consecutive losses in Games 2 and 3 of the NBA Finals, there has predictably been talk in the media about the Thunder’s youth and inexperience. Perhaps just as predictably, there was the backlash from twitter and the blogosphere about the mainstream media’s tired use of old clichés which supposedly have no bearing on reality. That is, the practice of substituting ‘narratives’ in place of objective analysis. One such opinion came from the great Eric Freeman from Ball Don’t Lie, who linked to his piece in The Classical from a week ago on twitter.

Usually I too am bored by the lazy use of narratives to explain NBA phenomena, as well as the selective cherry-picking of information and facts to fit these narratives. In this particular situation however, traditional wisdom has some merit. To win in the NBA, you do need experience, and history backs this up. The average age of Finals teams over the last 20 years is 28.1. When adjusted for playing time, it’s actually a little higher at 28.6. The average age of Finals MVPs since 1981 is 29.5 years old. Put simply, the NBA playoffs are an old man’s game. Meanwhile, this precocious young Thunder team have an average age of 25.8, and their weighted average age is 25.4 (Miami on the other hand have an average age of 28.6, with a weighted average age of 28.5). They are the youngest Finals participant of the last 20 years, and if they go on to win, they would be the youngest Championship team by almost a full year.

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The L.A. Kings & America’s Underachievers

Last night the Los Angeles Kings completed an improbable postseason run by dispatching New Jersey 6-1 in game six to capture their first ever Stanley Cup.

After limping into the postseason as the eighth seed in the West, the Kings stunned the Canucks and then proceeded to knock off both the Blues and the Coyotes en-route to the Finals. An eighth seed no longer, the team had seemingly evolved into a powerhouse overnight, losing only two games through the first three rounds and being undefeated in all road games. Not surprisingly, they headed into the final round matchup against the Devils as touted favourites.

The Kings’ 3-0 series lead in the Finals quickly evaporated with Martin Brodeur rediscovering his form and the Devils claiming games four and five, bringing the series back from the dead. With a hyped and expectant Staples Center behind them for game six, the Kings would stamp out any hopes of New Jersey completing their comeback and they took an unassailable lead early. The Cup was theirs.

For the Kings and their fans, this day had been a long time coming. Forty-five years in fact.

Not even The Great One could bring a title to LA

The Kings franchise began in 1967, seeking to cash in on the success that had met Los Angeles’ other professional teams: the Lakers (moved from Minneapolis in 1960) and the Dodgers (moved from Brooklyn in 1958). The Lakers and Dodgers quickly became woven into the fabric of the city but a professional hockey team did not find it as easy to acclimatise. The combination of Marcel Dionne, Charlie Simmer and Dave Taylor (one of the highest scoring trios in league history) in the late 1970s brought immense promise but failed to yield results. Over time, the team started gaining a good fan-base in the city and their cause was made infinitely easier in 1988.

Wayne Gretzky’s arrived in the City of Angels in 1988 on the back of a nine-year stint with the Edmonton Oilers, with whom he won four championships. In addition to bringing results on the ice, Gretzky legitimized and popularized pro hockey not only in Los Angeles but state-wide, paving the way for two more expansion teams in California: the San Jose Sharks (1991) and the Anaheim Ducks (1993). With the help of the ‘Great Gretzky’, the Kings made it all the way to the Finals in 1993 but fell short to a Montreal side intent on getting their franchise’s 24th championship. This momentum did not last and the franchise constantly failed to replicate their 1993 success, only making the playoffs six times since.

No longer.

This year’s ensemble led by Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick have laid the doubts to rest.

With no NFL team in Los Angeles and both the Lakers and Clippers bowing out early in the NBA playoffs, all eyes in the city were on the Kings and they delivered. Right now, they truly are the Kings of LA.

By finally reaching the summit, the Kings removed themselves from the unenviable position of being a chronic American underachiever.

This category is crowded but there are some teams which stand out more than others. Let’s look at some of the more famous examples, from each of the other three major leagues. To qualify, teams must have been in existence for over forty years and be without a major, modern-day title.

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SRS BIZNESS: 2012 NBA Finals Preview

Miami coach Eric Spoelstra has taken a lot of heat (no pun intended) lately for a supposed inability to make adjustments and run real plays in the half court. As with most things in basketball media these days however, this perception is not entirely accurate. Here we’ll break down a few smart plays the Heat coach ran in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals to get going, and see how much of LeBron’s success was due to coaching and how much of it was all LeBron.

Play 1:

This was one of the first post up possessions for LeBron, and it came out of a set play. Bosh has the ball at the elbow, and Battier and Chalmers set staggered screens for LeBron so he can come free to the ball. Here LeBron executes a dribble handoff to Wade and follows the ball to set a screen. On the roll, LeBron seals Ray Allen on the mid post on the switch and backs the much smaller Allen down. He spins baseline and gets an easy jumper to get his half court game going.

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President Obama and the Tragedy of LeBron’s Brilliant Game 6

POTUS and LBJ: more in common than you may think

Barack Obama was elected as President of the United States on the back of a marketing campaign emphasising the idea of “Hope” and “Change”. He was the fresh face who was not yet entrenched in the slimy ways of Washington and its pseudo-corrupt web of lobbyists and big corporate influence. He was the “Great Liberal Hope” who would break the political deadlock, rescue the broken economy, and usher in a more modern, progressive era of American history.

Obama fell short of our expectations, as we were treated to a rather discouraging stasis in US politics. For all his pre-election rhetoric on ending the influence of lobbyists, he appointed several former lobbyists to important positions in his administration. Despite the big deal made of him representing a break from the past two administrations, he appointed Larry Summers as an economic advisor. For all his tough talk on shutting down Gitmo, holding the Wall Street Banks to account, and all the other liberal reforms that were promised, what we were treated to were not Big Victories but Small Compromises. But at the same time, nothing Obama did in his four years in office can really be considered to be the equivalent of turning to the “dark side” either.

Unlike say, LeBron James.

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