Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tuesday Grab Bag: A new Mayor for Chicago

While Rham Emmanuel isn't gone, the City of Chicago did see some Mayoral reform last week. Yep, the one, the only, Spencer Dinwiddie is headed to the Madhouse on Madison, as the former CU star was traded to the Chicago Bulls late last week.

The move by Chicago, ostensibly to build guard depth while avoiding paying guaranteed money to a bench slot, makes sense.  As Blog A Bull pointed out, with Dinwiddie's non-guaranteed portion of his contract lasting through November, the Bulls get a relatively cheap look at the former Colorado guard before having to make a decision on the roster spot at season's onset.  All it cost them was Cameron Bairstow, a reserve forward who was probably going to get cut anyway.

Sure, this essentially innocuous trade isn't going to turn too many heads around the basketball world, but one thing it did do is lead me into a victory lap around my office. For me, to see one of my favorite CU stars of the recent past winding up on my beloved Bulls is a wonderful turn of fate.  I still believe Spencer has the talent to play at the NBA level, and the team that gives him a solid chance should be able to reap some good rewards.  If it's My Bulls, you better believe I'm dropping the cash for a new jersey... and boy will the shop be surprised when they receive in that online order.


Today in the bag, I'm talking Game 7, Copa America, and the solidifying of the non-conference schedule in men's hoops.

Click below for the bag...

The King earns his hometown crown - 

Well, we got the Game 7 no one was expecting, and damnit it if the NBA Finals wasn't saving its best for last.  Back-and-forth the action went between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors Sunday night, providing some of the best pure basketball entertainment of the last decade.  With a title on the line, and crying Jordan memes waiting in the wings, both teams brought their best to the court over 48 minutes, and all of us watching at home were better off for being able to bear witness.  In the end, spurred by a transcendent block that had everyone on twitter finding religion, LeBron James and the Cavs pulled away late for a 93-89 win, stealing the series out from under the Warriors, and bringing a championship home to the Cleve for the first time in the history of Western Civilization (OK, first in 52 years).
Wait, what?  From: Fox News
Wait, that can't be right...  That proceeding paragraph would lead you to believe that the Cavaliers, the Cleveland Cavaliers, mounted a championship comeback against the 73-win buzzsaw that had many talking about the best team ever.  That, after being down 3-1, they went on to win three straight, including two in Oakland, to best the defending champs.  Are you kidding me? What world is this?

But, of course, it's all true.  The comeback, three titanic performances from LeBron James, Commissioner Adam Silver handing the trophy to the comic sans guy, and champagne getting dumped on my man @TZiskBuff... all of it as real as it gets.  Once again, life has proven to be the greatest narrative engineer available, with the tale, all-inclusive from the first days of LeBron at St Vincent-St Mary's through the Decision to today, as dramatic as any written in the history of the English language.
This is, above all else, LeBron's title.
The big winner, even greater than the City of Cleveland (who certainly deserves this title after decades of torment), is LeBron James.  In one week of basketball, spread out over the course of three games, the King erased every demon still chasing him after his South Beach two-step.  How can you not marvel at the numbers he put up in Games 5-7?  With a little help from rounding, he averaged a triple-double as his team faced elimination.  He was the cockroach that wouldn't die as wave after wave of Warrior exterminators raced to the scene.  When James threw down that block on an unsuspecting Andre Iguodala, I realized I was watching individual achievement in its highest form.  While Michael Jordan was a better player, and Bill Russel a greater champion, no one has ever done what Lebron just did, dragging his team back from the brink on three straight occasions to single-handedly will his team to a title... on the road... against the defending champs.  This is it, we've all witnessed the pinnacle of sports.  There will be nothing else that can top this.  Appreciate it.  Enjoy it.  Never forget it.

LeBron didn't just live up to his perceived destiny Sunday night, in emphatic fashion he seized his crown and his legacy.  Forever more, he's the guy who got it done, who refused to lose in the face of the longest of odds.  The narrative of his entire career changed, and none of us will ever be able to look at him the same again.

US set for major test this evening - 

The Copa America Centenario tournament has wound its way to the semi finals, and the Americans are still alive, thanks to last Thursday's hairy effort against Ecuador in Seattle.

The US had pressed the Ecuadorians (a team that is far from an also-ran) early and often, looking confident in both attack and defense as play unfolded.  They were clearly the better side as they grabbed an early 1-0 lead, thanks to elder statesman Clint Dempsey, and seemed to be well on their way to an easy victory.  Into the second half, I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who didn't expect a comfortable run to the final whistle.
Dempsey, again, lead the charge for the US.  From: Yahoo Sports
Some extra curricular activities in the second frame, however, again deprived the USMNT of a full 11 men at the game's conclusion, and changed the scope of play.  Responding to a viscous, illegal tackle from Ecuador's Antonio Valencia (which earned him a second yellow card and the resulting red), US Midfielder Jermaine Jones got physical with a gaggle of opponents, and appeared to slap one of the Ecuadorians in the face.  As light and unobtrusive as the incident appeared live, it was apparently enough to earn Jones a straight red card, and both teams were suddenly axed down to 10 men a piece. This was exactly the opening Ecuador was looking for, and they used it to up the game's tempo and tenacity over the final 40-ish minutes.

Luckily, the Americans responded to the adversity well, doubling their advantage just ten minutes after the double send-off fracas.  Gyasi Zardes tapped in a Dempsey re-direct to claim a 2-0 lead, a goal that proved to be the game winner.  Ecuador would respond, scoring their own solid chance with just 15 minutes to play.  Despite some last-gasp shouting, though, that was the final change to the scoreboard, and the USMNT claimed a desperate 2-1 victory.
Uh oh, here comes Messi! 
As happy as the win is, it does set up a very difficult matchup with world #1 Argentina this evening in Houston.  As if playing team Messi wasn't enough on its own merit, the Americans will also be down three key players, as not only will Jermaine Jones be out for the straight red, but Alejandro Bedoya and Bobby Wood will also sit with yellow card accumulation.  For me, Wood is the biggest loss.  His pace and activity at the top of the US attack has been refreshing, and he has a proven history of scoring big goals against world class opponents.  Without him, I fear the US will turtle, praying for a nascent counter chance as Argentina batters at their doorstep.  When that opening Argentine goal does come, and it very much will, there just won't be enough attacking presence in red, white, and blue to equalize.  Unfortunately, this is where the American run will end, but, still, a solid showing for the US, a team shoe-horned into a tournament they really had no business being in. Even lasting this far is an accomplishment, one that they can use as a boost into the next World Cup cycle.

Men's basketball finalizes non-conference schedule - 

Quietly, the BasketBuffs announced their finalized non-conference schedule for the 2016-17 season last Friday afternoon.  I get some of the hesitancy on their part, with the finishing flourishes put to the slate more of the indifferent variety, but it's still something that should've gotten a little more attention with incomplete season renewals still in the hands of many in BuffNation.  Regardless, we now know when and where the Buffs will be playing this November and December.
Basketball, as ever, on my mind.  From:
The headliners remain the same: road trips to Portland, BYU, and Air Force, a non-conference tourney that culminates in Brooklyn, and big visits from CSU and Xavier.  What's new - the home opener against Sacramento State on 11/11, filler dates against Wofford, Fort Hays State, and Eastern Washington - isn't anything all that interesting.  My perception of this schedule, in fact, hasn't changed in the slightest since the Xavier home and home was announced earlier this year.  This will be a tough schedule, particularly when you consider the games away from Boulder, but one that the Buffs could find some strong footholds in.  While I will admit that the home portion is a little light (only two of 8 opponents have a pulse), the entire picture is more interesting than in years past.

In that vein, I'm looking at opportunities to get out on a road trip, and catch the Buffs away from home.  Visits to Provo, UT and the Springs are easy jaunts, even in late Fall, and I've been committed to the Legends Classic in Brooklyn since it was first announced.  These road games will be the foundation upon which the final record is laid.  I might as well be there as the masonry dries...

Happy Tuesday!

No comments: