Let me start with two comments about the Sweet-16 games over the weekend.
- The foul call in the final seconds of the San Diego State/Creighton game was simultaneously the right call and the wrong call. It was the right call because the Creighton player did indeed commit a foul; it was the wrong call because “fouls” of that degree of severity had been ignored for the previous 39 minutes and 55 seconds. When the officials who “grade the refs’ performance” after the fact review this game, they should note that he made the right call and his call was in fact what decided the game outcome. Good for him in getting the call correct; bad for him that his call was out of line with the way the officials had established that the game would be called.
- Isaiah Wong (Miami) was voted as the ACC Player of the Year. He is a good player – – maybe even a very good player – – but somehow I do not have him on a level similar to previous winners of that award such as:
- Billy Cunningham
- Tim Duncan
- Phil Ford
- Michael Jordan
- Christian Laettner
- Ralph Samsom
- David Thompson – – you get the idea.
After San Diego St. eliminated Alabama over the weekend, Alabama coach, Nate Oats said, “Our season wasn’t a disappointment.” I agree; it was way more than disappointing; it was cringeworthy. Let me review the bidding:
- An Alabama player stands accused of capital murder.
- Brandon Miller – knowingly or unknowingly – brought the alleged murder weapon to the scene of the crime and is a material witness in the case.
- A third player is also a witness in the case.
- And as the overall #1 seed in the tournament, Alabama lost in the round of 16.
Coach Oats is right, that is much more than merely “disappointing” …
Speaking of “disappointing” and “basketball”, let me move up a level to the NBA and observe the Dallas Mavericks. About 6 weeks ago, the Mavs acquired Kyrie Irving in a “blockbuster trade” to put another superstar player alongside Luka Doncic. More than a handful of commentators said at the time that this could make the Mavs serious NBA Championship contenders. Let me just say those analyses have not played out well to date. Assuming I have counted correctly:
- The Mavs are 7-13 since acquiring Kyrie Irving.
- The Mavs are only 3-8 in games where both Irving and Doncic played.
As of today, the Mavs are in 11th place in the NBA Western Conference meaning that they would not even be part of the “play-in round” of the league’s expanded playoffs. In the NBA about 70% of the teams make the playoffs; it is highly unusual for a conference finalist in Year One to miss the playoffs entirely in Year Two.
The Mavericks made the Western Conference finals last year; they lost Jalen Brunson to free agency over the summer and then acquired Irving at the beginning of February this year. If Kyrie Irving played Jalen Brunson in a 1-on-1 game, Irving would win 90% of the time. But the Mavs are not nearly as good a team after the trade as compared to last year’s squad.
I believe the Mavs were 29-26 when Irving arrived from the Brooklyn Nets; as of this morning, the Mavs are 36-39. The Mavs have 7 games left in the regular season and 4 of their upcoming opponents are below .500 as of today. If the Mavericks cannot “right the ship” and win at least those four games between now and April 9th, the season in Dallas will not be “disappointing”; it will be “disastrous”.
While on the subject of the NBA, that league is edging up to a potentially disastrous PR situation. Forget the skills of its players; that has never been a problem for the league; it has always had the best players on the planet. Here are just some of the issues the NBA has to deal with and has shown little if any competency in dealing with them:
- Player empowerment which allows star players to dictate where they will ply their trade.
- Load management which allows star players to dictate when they will ply their trade even after they have decided where they will ply their trade
- Ja Morant being suspended for “mental health issues” and then being pronounced as “cured/good to go” in about 2 weeks. Even Dr. Phil would not put his name on that kind of behavioral turnaround. [Aside: The juxtaposition of “player” and “guns” will get another focal point in June this year when Brandon Miller is drafted and goes onstage to hug it out with Commish Adam Silver.]
Finally, since much of today dealt with “disappointment”, let me close with this observation by the poet, Alexander Pope:
“’Blessed is the man who expects nothing for he shall never be disappointed’ was the ninth beatitude.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………