Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cooled Heat

The Miami Heat, squandered a golden opportunity. Now they must close out the series at South Beach, or else, go home because they have absolutely zero chance of winning game 7 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Tonight's loss may prove costly for the Heat. The Detroit Pistons, had their back against the wall showing signs of shaked confidence, and rumors surfacing that the players are in disagreement with their coach Flip Saunders. The stage was set for the Miami Heat to take over and reach the NBA Finals for the first time in their franchise history.

The road to the Finals remains open. Just keep in mind that the Pistons have come back from a 3-2 deficit to win a series in four previous occasions. I won't be surprised, if the Pistons manage to sneak past the Heat again, although it seems quite unlikely.

Two reasons why the Pistons won (rather than why the Heat lost):

1. Detroit started playing D, something sorely lacking in the previous games and robbed them of the identity they are most comfortable with.

2. The Heat went 6-20 from the free throw line. Even Ben Wallace would have done better by himself.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Ambrosian Days

I happened to come across this interview of Curtly Ambrose in Times of India. It made my day.

One of my cherished memories in Cricket happened a good decade ago, in the second semifinal of 1996 Cricket World Cup, between West Indies and Australia at Mohali. With Australia put to bat, Mark Waugh, the Australian great who's in a dazzling form, took strike as Curtly Ambrose, the opening bowler for West Indies started his run-up to bowl the first over the match.

The first delivery, a banana outswinger pitched just outside the off and carried to the second slip, setting up Waugh perfectly for the gem that followed--a killer in-cutter caught Waugh plumb in front of the off and middle--Ambrosed.

Eventually West Indies lost to Australia by 5 runs. It was tragic because at one point, they were cruising at 160+ for 2, chasing what seemed to be a very attainable 207.

Thanks to google video, you can still get a flavor of the Ambrosian days.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Why The Phoenix Suns Lost Game 3

Vanessa Casalegno felt that the game 3 between Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks was weird. She also thought the Suns were pretty careless with the ball leading to their downfall. Now that's part of the story.

In my response, I explained why the Suns lost (her comment and my original one can be found here). Below is a reproduction, edited for clarity and details.

I don't think it was just a weird game. In fact it was less weird and more Avery Johnson. Give credit to Dallas-they contested every shot and their transition defense took away the offensive explosiveness of the Suns.

I thought, the Suns just stopped running and when they tried they didn't have a clue. Shawn Marion was particularly miserable on the offensive end. Right now, with a thinner than the thinnest bench, they have to get balanced performances from everyone who shows up. Anything less, they are looking for another defeat in the next game.

I think it has been pretty much clear that Dallas is a superior team. Admittedly they got favorable breaks in the last minute calls against the San Antonio Spurs, but they showed they are more than capable of holding onto their own which is why they are now going to win the current series. Once you get past the Spurs, you get that confidence, that swagger, to challenge anyone, anytime and anywhere. The Mavericks are happily riding on the gains from the Spurs series.

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We have a problem. The problem is, we don't have a clue what to do with 715. We shrug. We blink. We move on. We fail to rise from our seats. We fail to cheer. There isn't much to care about. Not when 715 defines Barry Bonds.

Meanwhile the moment is gone. Our reactions are well past the moment of 715. Let the brickbats continue.

Patrick Hruby of ESPN Page 2 recently came up with 616, the number of home runs Barry would have hit had he remained Barry and not a BALCO product from the laboratories of Victor Conte. Well, now we have a number, give and take a few, but still nowhere close to Babe. Babe is safe. We feel better.

715 is not a milestone. It is just another step towards the Hall of Shame.

Because Barry is a cheater. So we have been told and told pretty convincingly. Even for a skeptic, the platform of trust becomes shaky;Malcolm Gladwell sharing his thoughts, on "Game of Shadows",

"When the book first came out, and several baseball writers predicted that Bonds’ reputation was destroyed and his chances are getting in the Hall of Fame seriously damaged, I thought they were overstating things. Now I’m not so sure. “Game of Shadows” is a death sentence for Bonds. More to the point, it’s impossible to read the book and accept that Bonds has a right either to the single season home-run record or, assuming he keeps playing, the career home run mark."

We have been fed a story. Nonstop. Without a break. From everywhere, every corner, every street, every lane and from every house. We cannot but believe it. Somewhere in the continuum, allegations became the truth. And the truth, whatever it is, yet to be found.

We believed the story, because we wanted to. Patience for truth is not our virtue when it comes to Barry Bonds because Barry's a threat to Babe. No, we never wanted Barry to come even close, and him going past Babe was our worst nightmare. Steroids or no steroids.

Because Barry is a jerk. We know, we've seen him being a jerk. We never liked that chap. He's obnoxious. He stinks. He is not fair. The steroids injected reasonable doubts in us. He's now dirty. The appreciation, if ever there was any, turned into disgust.

We asked for a "rat", we got Jose Canseco. We asked for proof, we got a book. So take him down. And we did.

A job well done. Let's now talk about who's next.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

The NBA Conference Finals

Our own Matt Sussman has spoken his mind. Now Suss is a powerful guy, not in the sense Mike Tyson is, but because he's the sports editor of Blogcritics and everything I write goes through him before it sees the daylight. So when he says something you gotta pay attention. I do.

Suss felt that the rest of the NBA postseason will drive him to death by boredom. After all, it seems somewhat unreasonable to expect the remaining games (the conference and NBA Finals) to match or better the semifinals that have already become a part of the ESPN classics and NBA lore. Therefore his suggestion to save our souls is:

"Cancel the rest of the NBA playoffs."

Ouch, and thank you!

Maybe he has a point. I should have stopped watching the NBA after the 2002 Western Conference Finals between Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings because (arguably) basketball couldn't and wouldn't get any better than that. The Spurs and the Mavericks, in a way, came real close. The point is they came close enough to merit attention. Had we not watched them play their hearts out we wouldn't have known.

Of course I can never argue with the Suss's feelings, as feelings can get hurt. And there is a good chance that what Suss really wants is to put a leash on our lofty expectations, which are, frankly, loose right now. And who knows, maybe he's right.

Nonetheless, I will say this: Don't stop watching the games.

Maybe Suss was under the influence when he wrote his column. Maybe he was losing a curling game when he got the idea. I don't know. I never asked him because he's the editor and there are certain questions you never ask the editor.

Now that I've spoken, I have to start playing curling with him so that he wins every time and thinks I am nobody of consequence. And the next thing you know I'm suggesting not to watch NBA Finals.

On a related note, here are my teams for the finals. I am not trying to jinx anyone. I know I have an embarrassing record in predicting the future but I am not ashamed. (I am a man whose feet are firmly placed in the present and my crystal ball is a fake.)

Keep in mind that as I pick the NBA Finals matchup, both conference series are tied 1-1.

My head picks: Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. The battle of D's. It's still not a good idea to talk about Defense and Dallas, although they are far better now than those jack-up-threes-as-you-please years.

My heart picks: Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns. No justification. Just a feeling and you really cannot argue with feelings.

Perhaps you noticed I have chosen two out of four possible finals matchups. The other two -- Pistons-Suns and Heat-Mavericks -- are better left as our editor's picks.

He may not be watching but it doesn't mean he's not taking sides.

Enjoy the Conference Finals!

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Monday, May 22, 2006

A Monday with a twist

If you have plans tonight, shelve them.


The NBA Western Conference Semifinal deciders: Two Game 7s.

The battle of underdogs in the desert: Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Clippers. The battle of Titans in Texas: Defending champion San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks.

Lines are drawn. Strategies are in place. The details have been chalked out. Only the executions wait.

Nature tells us there could only be two winners, and you are invited to witness.

That's why.

Not yet convinced? Consider this:


Do you enjoy rides on a roller-coaster -- the ones that go through your mind and emotions? Do you enjoy the moment when your heart pumps blood faster, your mind races through the universe and you stop blinking because it takes less than a blink for wonderful things to happen?

If your answer is yes, continue reading.

Excluding Game 2 of the Spurs-Mavs series, the other five games saw a combined victory margin of 14 points.

That's less than a three-point differential per game. Now look closer: two games were decided by one point, one by two points and one in overtime. In other words none of the games were decided till the last moment, last possession, and the last shot.

Conventional wisdom runs for cover

Example 1: Phoenix wins when they score 100+ points, that is, if you want to win you better keep them below 100.

Counter example 1: In Games 4 and 6, the Suns scored 106 and 107 and lost. Wait. There is more. In Game 3, they scored 94 and still won!!

Example 2: Defense wins in the playoffs.

Counter example 2: The Suns-Clippers series. They don't play D. They simply outscore each other, and both teams are averaging 100+ points. Expect another mythbuster in Game 7 with fresh legs after three days of rest.

Example 3: You have two 7-foot players and so you run plays through them. You keep at least one of them on the floor always. Right? Wrong.

Counter example 3: The Spurs are obviously running their offense through Tim Duncan. But that's about it. The other 7 footer, Rasho Nesterovic, is idling on the bench, barely seeing a minute or two.

Digging out from 3-1 hole, forcing Game 7 and a chance to win

As recently as in the first round, the Phoenix Suns became only the eighth team in the league history to win a series after falling behind 3-1 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Now the San Antonio Spurs have a chance to become the ninth.

Point to prove

For Steve Nash: the reigning MVP. His awards are questioned. His defense carries multiple asterisks. Yet the little Canadian fought through the odds carrying the team on his shoulders. When you realize what he's achieved with his team in the playoffs without Amare and Kurt Thomas, you know he's very very special.

For Sam Cassell: The 36-year-old running the point for L. A. Clippers is the only Clipper who's been there, who's done that. He keeps barking at the officials with the same ease he hits big shots from his days at Houston Rockets. Yet he gets traded all the time.

For Tony Parker: Mr. Eva Longoria was phenomenal during the regular season. In the playoffs, he's streaky and Greg Popovich's most important concern.


The hardest part of being a witness is that I know two teams will be going home. And I don't like it.

Why don't I want any team to lose tonight?

Because if the Suns lose, their style is the loser. They haven't won a championship yet but they have won a lot of hearts. They made a lot of new friends. At best they are a bunch of dream weavers and at worst they are better than the best Rick Carlisle team.

Because if the Clippers lose, that ends a fairy tale. And I love fairy tales and Grimm Brothers. No one expected them to be here. Yet here they are. No guarantees. Just balls.

Because if the Mavericks lose, that makes Mark Cuban upset. That makes his incessant whining on officiating a lost cause and no more fines from David Stern. That means no more money to the charities this season.

Because if the Spurs lose, it becomes personal. I will miss Tim Duncan hitting the sweet bank shots. I will miss Ginobili curling his way to the basket from nowhere. I will miss Robert Horry netting his signature daggers. And I will miss Ms. Eva Longoria because they show her regardless of a Tony Parker clank or swish.

But as always, I know Nature prevails.

My picks: San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers both win and meet in the Western Conference finals.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Playoff pleasures

I woke up in the morning with a serious headache. Almost like a zombie, I slowly made my way to the coffee and after going through the news and first cigarette of the day which is always holy and pious, I gradually started to make sense of what's happening around me.

Then, as if it's my time for enlightment, I realized two things. Today is Friday and two Game Sixes are going to be played; quite coincidentally, the teams that were scheduled to meet at the NBA finals (The Pistons and the Spurs) will be fighting just to stay alive.

And tonight the Edmonton Oilers are opening their Western Conference Finals series against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks at Arrowhead Pond, which I believe is somewhere in Anaheim. This is serious business for a lot of people. The pride of a country that only cares about the game of hockey rests squarely on the shoulders of the Oilers who started off as the No. 8 seed. It turns out that it is also my responsibility to cheer for them which I am happy to do as long as my hockey friends are going to buy me the beer. Yes, buying me off is that easy.

(Wait a second -- no, it won't work for curling.)

Every time I watch a hockey game, I feel am in a Roman colosseum watching gladiators sucker punching the lights out of each other. And my friends cheer. This inevitably leads to the following question.

What if David Stern and Stu Jackson are in charge of NHL?

My guess: every team would be suspended for 5 years, with 3 years of extended community service and 2 years of acute anger management therapy and they are going to start a WNHL as a replacement.

And Ron Artest is playing the wrong game. Someone should let him know that there's a game tailor made for him and his spiritual buddies Bonzi Wells, Ruben Patterson and Zach Randolph. If they were playing in NHL, they would be cult figures by now. I think there's still time to get this going.

Coming back to tonight's games, I will let my head go with the Pistons, heart with the Spurs and beer to cheer for the Edmonton Oilers.

The Clippers won last night, and did so quite convincingly. Going by their progress, it gives me hope that someday I could become a celebrity.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Taming of the Pistons

Respect -- or the lack of it. The Detroit Pistons have always made it known about how they feel.

Rewind to 2005 Eastern Conference Finals. "I don't know if we've gotten the same respect that other champions have, but we use that as motivation," said Chauncey Billups after winning Game 1 against the Miami Heat.

Fast forward: 2006 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals prior to Game 1: "It's his showcase, pretty much," Billups again referring to LeBron James. "We come off playing on NBA TV, now we're on ABC. It isn't because of us."

The innuendos are loud and clear.

Perhaps Chauncey and his band of brothas should start showing some respect to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Because so far, their casual dismissals, and guarantee from Sheed have only turned a 2-0 cushion into a 2-3 deficit.

In Game 5 of the series deadlocked at 2-2, the Pistons came out tentative, without any focus, purpose or urgency demanded by the situation. Playing catch up for most part of the game, they looked clueless and often struggled on their offense. Once Billups, their Mr. Clutch who carried them by scoring 14 second half points, picked up his sixth foul with little more than two minutes to go, they had no one to turn to. The Pistons of old likely would have won this game playing "D" -- their hallmark over the last few years but the new Pistons with their new identity under Flip Saunders appeared confused.

"Our guys have the ability to lock down," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said after Game 2. "As a coach, you hate the term 'Flip the switch,' but there's no question they have the ability to do that."

Turns out that the switch wasn't working last night, at least not in both ways. It was off alright. Drew Gooden, who got into the game after Ilgauskas was fouled out, scored the go ahead basket on a lay up from a nice feed courtesy Lebron James.

A lay up?! You don't allow lay ups in playoffs, not when the score is tied and less than a minute to go. What were you thinking?

I don't know what they were thinking but I know who was watching: Rasheed Wallace from the bench and Kid Rock from the court side.

Now we know the Pistons can lose just fine without a guarantee.

They were talking about a Detroit sweep and how it would make LeBron stronger in the future. Now the Cavaliers are just one game away from making the Eastern Conference finals and if they could, I hope that buries the ghosts of "The Shot" of Michael Jordan over Craig Ehlo forever.

"I ain't worried about these cats, there's no way in hell they beat us in a series", said post-guarantee Rasheed with one foot in his mouth, after a sheed breaking loss in Game 4.

Now facing elimination, Billups reassured the Motown folks that they are not concerned. Funny. Because I know everyone else, who cares for the Pistons enough to want them to win the series is.

I suppose learning doesn't come easy for these cocky Pistons. But if they are listening, I want them to know that there is one guy who always let his game do the talking.

Joe Dumars.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

The future of Larry Brown and the NY Knicks

For everyone associated with the New York Knickerbockers in any form, shape, or, state of matter, I have one word for you:


Be patient. You made the right decision last year when you handed out a five year, $60 million contract to Larry Brown. The right decision as to hire him as a coach and not to overpay him. But then again, it's not my money.

And now I hear the reports of buying him out and letting him go. I wonder what can I suggest to make you,the cellar dwellers of the NBA, feel little better and raise your hope for a respectable future. So here's my best advice if you listen.

Don't let Larry Brown go. Larry should stay and figure out a way to make the Knicks relevant again. Because right now, you're a mess created by your ingenuous president Isiah Thomas and if anyone can pull you out, it has to be Larry -- the man who preaches the right way to play ball.

We know what it takes to be a loser: James Dolan and the inherited dollars, Isiah Thomas and his off the court IQ.

We also know what it takes to be a winner. Just check out the resume of Larry Brown.

Larry is a proven winner, unlike Isiah, who's a proven loser (not counting his playing days).

I hope you understand after a tumultuous losing season that Larry is not an instant fix to your team's problems which run deeper than you thought, and if he is not, then no one else could come closer. But surely he's a long term answer, if there is any. And he's the best out there who puts an honest effort.

After all, this is the dream job that the Brooklyn native can't afford to screw up because everything that he's worked for in his life are at stake: legacy, reputation, and perhaps most importantly, the ability to create winners from losers.

For the record, Larry's first season with a team doesn't automatically make them a winner. The Philadelphia 76ers posted a 31-51 record in 1997-98, and if you recall, the 76ers went on to make the 2001 NBA Finals. Of course they had a certain Allen Iverson. The relevant point is after a disastrous first year, the 76ers always posted a winning record during the rest of Larry years.

Look. Larry Brown never promised a playoff berth to you right away. When he was hired last year, he said," I look forward to coaching this team ... If you play the right way, being in this environment, you help our sport, and I don’t take that lightly. I look forward to the challenge. I know it’s not going to be easy, but nothing worthwhile is supposed to be easy.”

Don't let his public feuding with his egotastic shooting guard Stephon Marbury bother you. He has done it before. Remember his days with Allen Iverson? That's what Larry does and at 65, Larry's not going to change. Bear with him and let him finish the job he's hired to do.

If you are not convinced, here's another fact. Before this year, Larry was the guy who took the Clippers to the playoffs.

Yes, he's a quitter but not before he proves himself to be a winner. He quits only when there's nothing else to prove and he never quits in a losing situation.

This is what Isiah said when Larry was hired by the Knicks.

“He has made every team he has ever coached a winner, with a legendary approach to teaching and motivating his players. His value to us as a franchise at this time is immeasurable.”

That's worth repeating. Let Larry Brown stay if you want to be talked about again in the post-season.

And if you are desperately looking for a scapegoat, Isiah is waiting.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

No sweep for the Pistons

Detroit Pistons vs Cleveland Cavaliers : Pistons lead 2-1.

Ok. No sweep for the Pistons. Frankly I expected one and as usual I was wrong.

One reason, of course is, LeBron James took over down the stretch and that's what great players do. And somewhere I know Kobe is watching.

James was the difference between the two teams in the fourth quarter when he scored 15 of his 21 points. For the record, the Detorit guards Chauncey and Rip combined for 6 points in the fourth. That should tell you the story pretty much.

After going through the stat sheet, I found something more amazing than LeBron and his triple double. Cavaliers shot 50% and Detroit, not so impressive 39.4%.

This season, the Pistons are enjoying more freedom in their offense with Larry no longer barking from the sidelines, but they still win games on defense.

The D wasn't there last night. At least not when it mattered most.

The Pistons are going to win anyway but now they have something to think about.

San Antonio Spurs vs Dallas Mavericks : Mavericks lead 2-1.

Except for game 2, the first and the third were decided by a combined 3 points!!!

However there is something alarming for the Spurs. Tim Duncan answered all questions surrounding his mobility by averaging 31.3 points and 11.3 rebounds in the first three games and yet the Spurs have fallen behind.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Bonding with Bonds

Barry Bonds is sitting pretty, right where you don't want him to. You say you couldn't care less; and yet you couldn't stop watching him, stop talking about him, nor stop writing about him. He's discussed, dissected and dished for every menu item.

If there's anything wrong, it's in the game everyone but baseball plays with him. He only plays baseball.

Yes. He's not an endearing one you send invites to. He's always been that way, a jerk, when I hear what you say, when I read what you write.

But he's respected. No. Not by you.

He's respected by the pitchers who pitch to him, respected by the managers who sweat every time he's out there.

That's what Barry cares about. He knows he's feared and he will be as long he chooses to play.

And that he has earned. You didn't hand it out to him. Neither did I. And that was long before he allegedly injected himself with steroids.

Ask any player, any game, any sport. Everyone will zero in on one thing: respect - the respect of the opposition. Everything else comes next. You play the game to win - not to win a popularity vote. Barry's what Barry does regardless of what you think of how he does it.

Likely he's cheated: cheated the game of baseball, cheated the fans who pay to watch a game played out fairly - a fair expectation from fair fans who are fair to the Babe, fair to his legacy because Babe's fair and his numbers are fair in an era of all-fair baseball.

But as of now, it's only likely that Bonds cheated.

He's not playing so will send him flowers. He's playing the game like he's always played, like he owns it, like he's born to play the game, and like Barry Bonds.

You see, it's a matter of sending the ball where the boo begins and Barry ends.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Kobe quit and what others are saying

Politely put Kobe's an engima. A true assessment of Kobe Bryant will land him anywhere between a talented dickhead and the one closest to MJ.

Real Kobe. Fake Kobe. And I am not talking about the Kobe behind the closed doors with a woman and a chair. Love him or hate him, you should at least agree with me here--the famously contrived persona makes him slip more often than not--something I consider unfortunate for someone who's still the most talented baller walking on this planet. And his occasional blast of immaturity, as was evident in game 7 against the Phoenix Suns, shows, he could at times become no more reliable than the infamous "airballs for Utah", tossed up years ago in the playoffs.

Going by Kobe--who knows what's next.

Quite a few folks think Kobe did quit. You can find them all over the blogosphere although the mainstream media remained mostly polite and pretended oversight. I personally recommend reading this gem from TJ Simers of Los Angeles Times. For those who are not aware of TJ, the guy got a wacky sense of humor.

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Schooling of Virender Sehwag and BCCI

Once again BCCI--Board of Control of Cricket in India has shown its true colors.

It's odd and it's sad too. Our cricketers, while every one of them enjoys the demigod status for making us,the fans, proud of the game we love and feel so passionate about, often get schooled by the BCCI officials for making remarks that are only fair if taken in the right context and spirit.

Right spirit. Freedom of speech. Fair exchange of ideas and opinions. Tell that to Niranjan Shah, the honorary secretary of BCCI, the de-facto Headmaster of BCCI school and he will show you the contract.

In a recent PTI interview Virender Sehwag was candid about cricket, cricket and cricket. "There is too much cricket... players need a break because they (may) burnout from cricket. They need time for fitness also, time to think about their game and to recharge their batteries,” .

If too much cricket is a problem, which may as well be, let it be discussed and debated not just by the BCCI schmucks who have no real concern except to cater to their own petty politics of power and the money that comes along with it but by the fans, media and people of the country. And to make a fair assessment of the situation we need to hear first hand. Who else other than our cricketers are better equipped to come out and express their opinions?

With regards to the burnout of players Mr. Shah told the media, "If any player feels there is burnout, he can take rest. The board cannot change its policy or itinerary for any player."

Mr. Shah, you would do everyone a big favor by disclosing your policy and the justifications to have it in place. Players like Sehwag are assets. They are supposed to carry the torch of Indian cricket for years to come. They are not the cash cows to provide five star luxury to the BCCI cronies.

In the same interview Sehwag observed "sometimes we miss Ganguly", and hoped for his return to the Indian team. "He is still playing first class cricket and hopefully he will get a chance again. It will be good if he gets back because he has got 10,000 one-day runs, 5,000 Test runs and 22 ODI hundreds. Most of the time India won when he got a hundred. He is a fantastic player," .

I don't think BCCI would be so concerned had Sehwag made similar remarks on Ashish Nehra or Balaji or whosoever not in the current Indian team. I also fail to understand the evil in the above comments that prompted this rebuke from Shah.

"Sehwag has been warned verbally from speaking to the media on burnout and the Ganguly issue. Players cannot speak on board policies and selection matters," . He continued, "Players cannot speak on Ganguly issue also. It is a matter which concerns the selection committee. As a player you cannot give your opinion on any other player."

Why a gag order Mr. Shah?

Mr. Shah, your reaction which is uncalled for, only suggests more murkiness in the whole Ganguly affair. Your comments would have made sense if Sehwag expressed his disappointment on the selection process (which is a joke anyway) and categorically stated that Ganguly should be in the team.

He did neither. On the contrary, while expressing his gratitude to the former skipper for his unflinching support towards him and few other teammates, he also maintained that future of the most successful captain of Indian cricket is in the hands of five wise men, also known as selectors.

If the Board has adopted a policy of not selecting Ganguly please tell us so and save Mr. More from his perpetual flip-flops every time Ganguly gets selected or dumped from the team.

However, the sharp criticism of Sehwag shouldn't come entirely as a surprise given BCCI's past records. The BCCI has already restricted writing columns by the cricketers, only the captain, coach and the manager are exempted and in one previous instance Harbhajan Singh was reprimanded for commenting on Sourav Ganguly.

As if it's not bad enough that the richest cricket body on the planet is the least transparent in every matter, so to speak. Now that it continues to wield the hammer on every imaginary nail perceived as potential threat to BCCI's hegemony is no better than the policies in a fascist regime.

You are a shame Mr. Shah; shame to the largest democracy of the world.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Kobe Bryant's vanishing act

For Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers the season is officially over. And we are left with a big question mark on his ever evolving attitude.

The more I think about it, more I get convinced.

Kobe Bryant sabotaged the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kobe went 8 for 13 in the first half--hitting four three pointers and managed to keep the Lakers within a striking distance. Trailing by 15 at halftime, the Lakers were expected to come out in the third quarter as if there were no tomorrow.

Instead they came out flat. And the one who bailed them out time and time again wasn't interested.

Funny. When you have known his game for eight years, you know what the guy is capable of and you are perplexed because you haven't seen him quite like this--not when time is running out for him and the Lakers.

Kobe simply switched himself off in the second half--took only three shots--scored only one point on a technical free throw. He continued to watch his fellow Lakers struggling and yet never tried to get himself going.

Explain that Kobe.

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sunrise in Phoenix

Mission impossible? Not any more. Not in the world of the Phoenix Suns. They just became only the eighth team in NBA to accomplish a series win after trailing 3-1.

The Suns clinched the seven game series against the Los Angeles Lakers in a 121-90 blowout disappointing everyone who expected another "going down the wire" classic. Nevertheless the first six games provided everything a sports fan could possibly handle in a playoff series. Everything.

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers was reduced to a spectator taking only three second half shots, missing all of them and scoring only one second half point on a technical free throw.

The last time a Canadian led pro-sports team achieved the same feat was back in 1989 when "The Great One" Wayne Gretzky guided the Los Angeles Kings to first round Stanley Cup playoff victory against the defending champions Edmonton Oilers (won the Cup with Gretzky in 1988) after falling behind 3-1 in the series.

Steve Nash, another Canadian with a floppy hairdo from Victoria, British Columbia will be no less proud to have him mentioned with Gretzky for leading a team from the brink of elimination to a series victory than his MVP awards.

His back to back MVP trophies already made him a member of the elite panel that includes, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Tim Duncan. Now he is guaranteed the Canadian membership of the club that previously had only one member--the Great One.

posted in Categories:Basketball

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Rising from the ashes

Hats off to the Phoenix Suns for playing through adversities and still delivering the goods. They managed to fend off the Los Angeles Lakers in two consecutive "win or go home" games and I for one was left eating my own words. Factor in the continued unavailability of their big men (making Kwame Brown look respectable) their performance was nothing short of miraculous.

With the series tied 3-3, the Suns play the Lakers tonight at Phoenix.

In game six with Raja "Kobe-irritator" Bell sitting out, the result of the game was all but forgone conclusion. Kobe got his 50--MVP Steve Nash went for 32 points and 15 assists. And the Phoenix Suns sent the series back to Phoenix. That's all they needed. Thank you Kobe.

The Lakers stopped playing the team ball and once again fell back on Kobe and only Kobe. To make matters worse they tried to match the Suns in their up tempo style. Thank you Lakers.

Thank you Jack Nicholson for making faces. Appreciated.

Tonight's game is the game of guts--the game that always defines a team--sets the tone--brings everybody together--makes them believe in mission impossible. It could be the Lakers. It could be the Suns.

For Raja Bell and the Suns, history is on their side. The home team has almost always won game 7 in a playoff series. Ironically history does not favor a team winning a seven game playoff series after falling behind 3-1. Only seven teams have done that before.

The last team to win a series after falling behind 3-1? The Detroit Pistons in 2003 playoffs against the Orlando Magic.

For the Lakers, history is on their side too. Phil Jackson has never lost in first round playoffs. His teams have never lost a series after leading 3-1.

For Kobe--the stage is set--playoff--Game 7--hostile crowd. Works for who he is and what he does.

Lakers win.

Other playoff notes
If you are not paying attention, the eastern conference teams happily settled all their disputes with the Cavaliers advancing to the second round first time after 1993, Miami managed to survive the scare otherwise known as baby Bulls, the Nets were kept floating by the talents of their esteemed trio Kidd-Carter-Jefferson and the Detroit's only loss against the Bucks turned out to be an exception of the norm .


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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Another sexual allegation case in Lakerdom

Lightning may not strike twice, but sexual assault allegations can. Just ask the Lakers.

The Lakers suddenly find themselves in the midst of another sexual assault controversy. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Police Department said their center-forward Kwame Brown is under investigation into a sexual assault case.

The former one was a high-profile drama involving Kobe Bryant that ended without any of us knowing any more than what we knew on day one. The tangible consequences however were more evident. The All Star Lakers team (Shaq-Kobe-Payton-Malone) fell apart faster than a house of cards -- losing out to the Pistons in the finals -- followed by departures of Phil and Shaq and "Kobe bashing" by Phil in his book.

In the season that followed, the official Los Angeles Lakers became the unofficial Los Angeles Kobes -- missing the playoffs first time in about a decade with Frank Hamblen, the replacement coach after Rudy Tomjanovich's health could not cope with the NBA rigor, reminding us he was only keeping the seat warm (for Jackson).

Not a list you want to be proud of. Nobody won. Not even Kobe -- the new $140 million baby. When you lose you are a loser no matter how much you cost. Simple.

Jeanie was there for Phil. One tumultuous year led her dad, Dr. Jerry Buss--the Lakers' owner, there as well.

Phil returned, helped in part by his $10 million per year paycheck. The buzz was back again. Only nobody knew if the winners would be back too. The majority of the pre-season predictions by the pundits considered Lakers to be the 9th to 12th ranked team in the Western Conference, meaning they were not considered a playoff team.

And magically the Lakers started winning and finished seventh, waiting for the second-seeded Phoenix Suns. Once again only a handful gave Lakers a shot. That they have reached the playoffs was considered to be an overachievement.

The Kwame Brown story broke hours before Game 5 with the Lakers up 3-1 in the series and looking to finish off the series.

Before the game Kwame proclaimed innocence, Jackson reiterated the importance of family, and that's about it. Nobody was talking.

The Lakers lost last night -- featuring ejections of Raja Bell and Kobe Bryant -- sending the series back to the Staples Center for Game 6 on Thursday. All game.

However, the dirty head of sexual assault allegation is something I could have done without. And the Lakers too.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A tale of two cities

Los Angeles
Los Angeles Clippers. For Clippers' fans, today is special. Till today they have lived every day like any other day. Today is different--they feel something is quite not right--and they are right. Less than twenty four hours ago, their franchise playing as Clippers tasted the first playoff series victory in basketball sending the Denver Nuggers to an early vacation . Last time it happened, the franchise played as Buffalo Braves. And it was thirty years ago.

Please maintain silence for thirty seconds to commemorate thirty years of draught. The clock has now been reset.

Phoneix Suns. Rise from ashes? Overcoming a 3-1 deficit? Good dreams and good luck. Steve Nash might want to dial the number of one fellow Canadian Wayne Grezky-The Great One as he is known in this part of the world, and ask for tips--the Great One in 1989 guided Los Angeles Kings to first round Stanley Cup playoff victory against the defending champions Edmonton Oilers (won the Cup with Gretzky in 1988) after falling behind 3-1 in the series.

Even if Phoenix somehow finds a way to win today--the series will go back to Los Angeles where the Lakers are going to wrap it up. And that would set the stage for hitherto unthinkable

Lakers vs Clippers.

Once again truth is stranger than the fiction.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

A Bayesian view of the NBA playoffs

A week into the NBA playoffs, I have my task cut out: separate the winners from whiners. I hope you understand I am in a difficult position and can't afford to take any chances - no more than the Houston Texans who passed up Reggie Bush (maybe it's odd, but my seventh instinct tells me this is the twenty-first century equivalent of Sam Bowie over MJ).

For help I turned to Reverend Thomas Bayes whose Theorem (take my word here) is key to the Bayesian inference model used to update beliefs in the light of new information (in form of evidence or observations).

Probably you noticed, the best teams took the weekend off: Kobe's buzzer beater setting the Suns, Spurs and Kings taking turns in trusting the rim more than ever - you name it.

Time for an updated look at the future.

Clippers-Nuggets (Prediction: Clippers 4-1)
Currently: Clippers lead 3-1.
The new darling of Los Angeles is all set for an all-L.A. showdown in the next round. I have two questions for you: Where do you see Carmelo five years from now? How long will it take Isiah to take the Kenyon Martin bait?
Updated prediction: same as before.

Pistons - Bucks (Prediction: 4-0 Pistons)
Currently: Pistons lead 2-1.
Now that the Bucks embarrassed them, expect the best team in the NBA to bounce back with vengeance. The new prediction is therefore 4-1 for Pistons. With all due respect to the Bucks there is only so much they are capable of.

Heat-Bulls (Prediction: 4-1 Heat)
Currently: series tied at 2-2.
I am an idiot - should have known better. With "Captain Kirk" Hinrich leading the way, these baby Bulls are booming with confidence. Time for Pat Riley to make serious adjustments - they have been exposed no less than a wardrobe malfunction. Yet, I don't see an upset happening.
Updated prediction: 4-3 Heat.

Cavaliers-Wizards (Prediction: Cavaliers 4-2)
Currently: series tied 2-2.
My prediction came with a warning: LeBron should not try to win this all by himself. Right now he has 21 assists against 25 turnovers!!. Mike Brown as a coach needs to be more assertive.
Updated prediction: Wizards 4-3.

Mavericks-Grizzles (Prediction: 4-0)
Currently: Mavs leading 3-0.
Easiest pick of all.
New prediction: same as before.

Nets-Pacers (Prediction: Nets 4-3)
Currently: series tied 2-2.
Like any Rick Carlisle team, the Pacers are extremely well coached. It is however impossible to overcome the combined talent of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson.
Updated prediction: same as original.

Spurs-Kings (Prediction: 4-1)
Currently: series tied 2-2.
In my earlier post I also wrote "I can be flat out wrong about five - this could go to seven. The only relevant word is Artest." With two consecutive rim-deciders, the Spurs didn't need the rim today - they just forgot to show up.
Updated prediction: Spurs 4-3 (Rick Adelman has earned my trust! but Spurs would win anyway).

Lakers - Suns
Currently: Lakers lead the series 3-1.
Just my luck. I did pick the Lakers to win in my earlier post - only forgot to mention the final scoreline. But trust me (I know I know), I thought about a possible 4-2 and I don't see why should it change now. The absence of Amare or for that matter a decent body in the front court is simply killing the Suns. And by the way Phil Jackson's team-Kobe plan is a masterstroke that caught the Suns completely off guard. In case you forgot, Kobe in clutch is as good as anyone ever played the game.

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from QbiT