Thursday, May 27, 2010

Glen Davis Actually Becomes Smarter After Concussion

In what is being called one of the most intriguing medical mysteries in recent history, Glen Davis seems to have become smarter after the concussion that forced him to be removed from game five of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The concussion was suffered in the third quarter when Dwight Howard hit Davis in the face with an elbow, sending Big Baby to the ground. Davis was able to get up after a moment, but then immediately stumbled into referee Joey Crawford.

Though he experienced minor headaches following the game, Davis seemed noticeably more intelligent by his teammates the next morning.

“Big Baby normally has issues with words longer than two syllables, but he correctly used the word ‘excruciatingly’ this morning. It was like something out of the twilight zone man,” said Celtic guard Rajon Rondo.

While doctors from all over the globe are flying to Boston to theorize how one could experience an increased IQ as a result of a concussion, Dr. Avery Schmidt has an idea that is being accepted as the most logical explanation.

“When someone suffers a concussion, he usually experiences a loss of memory and at least temporary loss of intellect,” Schmidt explained. “However, I believe that Mr. Davis possessed so little brainpower, that he experienced an increase because it was not possible to suffer a loss of any kind.”

This theory is being accepted not only by many doctors currently studying Davis, but also by most fans of the Celtics.

“I love Big Baby, but look at the guy. I haven’t seen a dimmer-looking face since Vin Diesel. The fact that he can speak English at all kind of surprised me,” said Boston native Sean McIntyre.

According to Celtics coach Doc Rivers, Davis remains a game time decision for tomorrow night’s game six in which Boston hopes to close the door on the Orlando Magic and advance to the NBA Finals.

As to whether or not Davis’ new and improved brain is just a temporary side affect or a permanent matter, no one can be certain.

“I am obviously not able to hypothesize how long my newly acquired acumen will last, but I can only hope it is a permanent fixture,” Davis said. “I just read a book for the first time in my life, and it was truly an exhilarating experience”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Come Playoff Time In The NBA, Does Talent Actually Reign Supreme?

To say that this year’s NBA playoffs has been less than exciting would be beyond a euphemism. It has produced four sweeps and only one game seven, while in the progress of adding two more sweeps to its resume’.

However, while the lopsidedness of the games has bored some to tears, the surprising dominance of some teams and equally shocking flatness of others has led me to ask questions I’ve fought with for years.

What if there are some teams that are built for the regular season, while other are built for the playoffs? Perhaps more importantly, does talent always prevail in the playoffs; or is there a more important factor?

Many have tried to tell me this before-that there are some players that shine when the light is brightest- I always thought that talent on paper would prevail.

It wasn’t until the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, and Los Angeles Lakers decided to simultaneously prove me wrong, that I have finally awoken to what seems to be an indisputable reality: talent is but one factor in the quest for a championship and actually becomes a smaller factor in the post season.

The first team that arose this suspicion was the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Everything was set for LeBron and his crew to storm through this postseason and claim their first title. They had the best record, the best player with a great supporting cast, home-court advantage, rest, and the swagger that came with all of these things. These advantages didn’t seem to matter though, as Boston just dominated them in a series where Cleveland never seemed to have the upper hand.

My only explanation is that they weren’t build for playoff basketball. Postseason ball is much different from its predecessor.

Mo Williams might be a great scorer, but lacked the ability to distribute when his game was off; LeBron, while an excellent teammate, lacked the ability to instill fire into a team that needed it so badly; and finally, the team didn’t have a strong inside presence.

While these things aren’t a huge deal in an 82-game-season, they are quintessential parts of a champion.

On the other side of the coin is the group of teams that over perform come May and ruin everyone’s predictions. The Lakers and Celtics seem to be these teams every year.

To say that the Lakers were an underdog coming into the post season is a stretch; however, to say people didn’t have doubts, is another.

From the beginning of the season, most analysts identified Los Angeles as the best team in basketball on paper. Throughout the regular season though, this didn’t seem to be the case. They were vulnerable all season and were barely above .500 after the All-Star break. The Lakers seemed to be a team that was falling apart at the wrong time.

Instead of continuing the downward trend, the Lakers were invigorated by playoff basketball. After losing two straight games to the Oklahoma City Thunder to even the first round series up at 2-a-piece, the Lakers have won eight straight games and are rolling on all cylinders. All of a sudden, they are the team everyone thought they would be.

Finally, the Celtics cemented my belief that talent couldn’t be the only factor. On paper, they aren’t close to as good as Cleveland. Hell, they aren’t even able to match the Magic in talent.

However, as soon as that last regular season game ended, every player on that team became 100% better.

Rajon Rondo might as well be a 25-year-old Jason Kidd; Kevin Garnett looks five years younger, and Paul Pierce finds a way to be clutch even at his worst. Even Kendrick Perkins looks like Bill Russell on defense. Simply put, this isn’t the same team that finished fourth in the Eastern Conference during the regular season.

The conclusion that I have made is that some teams are impossible to judge in the regular season because quite frankly, they don’t care. The first 82 games are just one small step in winning a championship.

With the Lakers and Celtics, what transpires from November through April doesn’t matter; it might as well be the preseason.

In addition to that premise, I’m starting to think that while it is true that talent is the sole factor in winning in the regular season, there are bigger factors in the playoffs. As cliché as it sounds, team defense reigns supreme in the playoffs. Not only that, but talent is also trumped by clutch play inside two minutes and the ability to make adjustments between games.

When you look at the Lakers and Celtics, these are the things that make them great. By the same token, these are the very same things that were the only weaknesses in Cleveland’s game.

The ability to win in the regular season and that of the post season take very different things. Building a team that is capable of being successful at both is so difficult. That is why building a title contender is almost impossible to do with any certainty.

If there was a formula for doing it, then being a general manager would be significantly easier.

Unfortunately for fans in Cleveland and other franchises that desperately want to figure it out, this isn’t the case. Building a team of intricate pieces to win a championship is something few people know. It is what ESPN’s Bill Simmons calls “the Secret.”

While the other 28 teams in the NBA seem to struggle to figure out what that is, it seems like the Lakers and Celtics know it very well.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ty Wigginton Keeping Baltimore Orioles Alive in Middle of Crisis

In his nine seasons of professional baseball, Ty Wigginton has been somewhat of a journeyman.

Playing on his sixth team, Wigginton was signed two offseasons ago as a utility guy that could be an insurance policy if a starter went down with injury.

Now he is not just a starter for the Orioles, but the only lively bat in Baltimore.

To begin the season, Wigginton was looked at as a disposable piece. With an infield of veterans like Miguel Tejada, Cesar Izturis, Brian Roberts and Garrett Atkins/Luke Scott, Wigginton was the odd man out. That sentiment only got worst when the Orioles traded for Julio Lugo.

Because of the acquisition of Lugo, when Brian Roberts got injured, Wigginton wasn’t even the first option. However, he was given the chance when Lugo's bat was nonexistent and manager Dave Trembley was desperate to try anything new to spark the offense.

Since then, Wigginton has been Baltimore's sole bright spot at the plate. He leads the team in home runs, RBI and average. In fact, if he didn't emerge as a guy who could knock guys in, the Orioles might be looking at an average with RISP lower than the already microscopic .239 it is at now.

Going into this season, I listed about a dozen X-factors for the Orioles offense. This list included Roberts, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Felix Pie, Nick Markakis and Atkins.

Wigginton was about as far away from that list as the Orioles are to the Rays in the standings. Now, he is the only thing keeping O's fans from having a full-scale riot.

In a best-case scenario, Roberts could be back by mid-June, but even if he is able to stay healthy (odds are similar to Ken Griffey Jr. speaking to Larry LaRue of the Tacoma News Tribune), it won't be the end of Wiggy. There is no way Wigginton is kept out of the lineup, especially with the void of production at first base.

As of right now, the Orioles are the only team in baseball that hasn't had a first baseman hit a home run. Atkins has been a total bust, Rhyne Hughes was just demoted, and prospect Brandon Snyder has struggled in AAA Norfolk. When Roberts returns, it is only fitting that the Orioles fill that void with the one power hitter they have.

If that is able to fix this one particular problem, the O's can focus on another problem, such as the bullpen, baserunning or clutch hitting. Notice that starting pitching isn't on that list for the first time in a decade.

It gets harder and harder to write about the Orioles these days, and Wigginton has kept it bearable for me these last few weeks. Maybe things will get better for a team that seems to have holes bigger than that of the Titanic, but until then, I will hold on to what I can get

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What This Homestand Means To The Baltimore Orioles

If there was one concern that every Orioles fan had going into the season, it was the fact that the O's first 32 games were absolutely brutal.

Their start included a stretch of 16 straight games without a day off to stat the season, and all but three of the games were against teams with a winning record.

While going 9-23 during that stretch isn't exactly what fans were expecting, they can take solace in the fact that things might get better in the upcoming games.

Last night's win over Seattle was the second game of an eight game homestand that could very well signal the revival of the Orioles.

The homestand includes one more game against Seattle, three against Cleveland, and a two-game series versus Kansas City—all teams of which have struggled almost as much as Baltimore.

Not only does the upcoming schedule seem conducive for an Orioles revival, but over the last two weeks, the O's have started to show some life.

After appearing to be one of the worst teams in baseball over the first 20 games or so, Baltimore swept the Red Sox-for the first time since 1998-and then split a four-game series in Minnesota.

I'm not saying that the team has been great, but there has certainly been improvement.

Ty Wigginton has added some surprising pop to the Orioles lineup, and Miguel Tejada and Nick Markakis are starting to heat up as well. Add that to a starting rotation that has actually been pretty solid all season, and you can see why the Orioles have been improving.

If the Orioles can win five or six of these games in the homestand, it could keep this steady improvement going and get the confidence of the younger guys back.

Not only that, but it will show the fans something that will keep them from revolting.

Even the patient O's supporters are starting to question general manager Andy MacPhail's "grand master plan." We need something to make us think that this isn't just another failed attempt at resurrecting the organization.

I said it at the beginning of the season, and I still believe it: the Orioles are not a bad team-they are far from it. They have the tools to compete with anyone; they just haven't been able to do it thus far.