Posts from — June 2011
Considering that Chicarito has as many goals (7) as the entire American team, I see Mexico winning this one.
Back to the Jamaica game for a minute though. There is one truism in every sport: a good defense usually wins championships, but you have to score when given chances. And to score, you need to shoot. Nice passing in the penalty area may look great on television and is something to brag about to you buddies over beer, but if you cant put the biscuit in the basket, none of that matters. The Spanish national team and Barcelona can string together amazing laser like passes in close quarters, but if your team-like the Jamaican team for instance-doesn’t have players on the level of Leo Messi, David Villa et al, your other option is to play and coach to your teams strengths. Pay attention, Jamaican coaches-develop your own style based on your teams strengths and make it work.
Speaking of Messi, in watching the USA v Panama game last week, I was struck by this dichotomy: Freddy Adu (R, with a man who needs no introductions) played for the American team, his first appearance in two years. He is currently trying to stick in Europe, but not with a team in any of the top four leagues. This from one of the most gifted American players of his generation. Approximately ten years ago, Adu signed with MLS as a precocious fourteen year old wunderkind. At the time there were offers from top flight clubs in England and Italy to join their academies and develop into a superstar. He didn’t, and has seen his career seesaw and flat-line at a time when he should be hitting his prime years as a professional.
Conversely, Messi was noticed at around the same age as Adu was signing deals with Nike. His family was given an opportunity to send the young prodigy to Spain to develop his game and treat a growth deficiency issue. While Messi hasn’t grown much in physical stature beyond where he was as a teen, his game has ballooned and expanded into that of a supernova, the biggest star on the best team in the world.
While no one knows if Adu could have ever approached those heights, I can state one thing for sure: Freddy Adu has more natural talent than any America player I have ever seen. He is a point guard on the football field, and his pass to set up the winning goal against Panama showed the type of guile that the entire Jamaican team has lacked for a very long time. You get to be the best by playing against and beating the best. When he was younger, people spoke of his ‘me’ attitude. It’s the same story said about every teenage superstar that has adults fawning and catering to their whims before they can even shave. After the game in interviews, Adu seemed happy, relaxed and grateful.
I hope Adu can get a chance with a top flight team in England, Spain or Italy to grow as a professional, because his talent is undeniable. He may never develop into a talent like Messi, but he can still fulfill the promise that everyone saw almost a decade ago. I wish him well.
June 25, 2011 Comments Off
Six games, Dallas triumphs over Miami. The team that had the sense of urgency, that played like a team and rallied behind their one superstar made the hustle plays, the big shots, grabbed the big rebounds, played better defense and ultimately won the big games when it counted most.
Congrats to Dirk, to Mark Cuban Jason Terry and especially to Jason Kidd, a player whose game i’ve admired since he was a collegian at Cal. In my personal hierarchy of greatest point guards, its Magic Johnson 1st, Jason Kidd 2nd and all else fall in line.
And as for Lebron, DWade and the rest of the Heat? Time to retool and reflect. As I stated a year ago in my blog post after the decision, its not the fact that the best and most physically gifted player in the world decided to abruptly leave the Cleveland Cavaliers team that he had led to previously never achieved heights. The shame was that this supremely gifted player decided to share top billing with another great. Voluntarily decided to be option 1a or 2, depending on how you interpret it.
To be fair, Lebron never once said he was okay with being the second option. Truth be told, he spent much of the season trying (and mostly failing) to be THE guy. The big dog, The #1 guy. During the playoffs he and the Heat ran roughshod over the 76ers, the Celtics and Chicago. He dominated in an obscene manner, even prompting Scottie Pippen at one point to proclaim him better than Jordan (Uhmm, want to rethink that one Scottie? Maybe better than you, but better than MJ?)
Then came the Finals. The games that count. The only ones that count. And once again Lebron was on the losing end. Dallas dominated, first by matching Miami’s defensive effort, then by outscoring them. The longer the games and the series went, the smaller Lebron became. The many critics that said he and DWade couldn’t play together had the ammunition they wanted, and LBJ didnt seem too interested in proving them wrong. He played tentative, passive and looked a lot more like Robin than Batman.
Now the jury is out on whether he truly realized that this was going to be the case. He has never said he was okay with not being the number 1 option. He has tried all season show that he is worthy of the title of best player in the NBA and a clutch performer. Even more than not winning a title, his underwhelming performance magnified the failure even more.
Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks. They outcoached, outhustled and outplayed the Heat. One superstar with heart and a focused team proved better than 3superstars. Case closed. Lebron is not Jordan. Never was, never will be. He is Grant Hill to DWade’s Christian Laettner. Pippin to Wade’s Jordan. Just a physically better athlete than those guys ever were. But still not possessing the heart to shoulder the load when it counts most. He told us this last summer with his decision, and a lot of people didn’t believe it. Believe it now?
That being said, next year, look for the Mavs and Lakers to battle for supremacy out West, the Heat, Knicks and Bulls to do the same in the East and an even better season next year than this.
June 15, 2011 Comments Off