Friday, June 28, 2013

Should I Stay or Should I Go? : Dwight's Not-So-Difficult Dilemma

The biggest question last offseason in the NBA was “Where would Dwight Howard go?” The “Dwightmare” was over once Howard was shipped to Los Angeles in a three team deal. Between the likes of him, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol, the Western Conference seemed to be theirs for the taking. (If somehow anyone from the Spurs or Thunder is reading this, they just laughed extremely hard.)

Then everyone remembered that the winners and losers are still decided on the court and not on paper. The Lakers had a miserable season by their standards, barely making the playoffs and getting eviscerated 4-0 by the resurgent Spurs led by Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Kobe tore his Achilles in game number eighty, and doubt about Dwight’s future began to bubble to the surface again.

Now Howard is a free agent and is rumored to be on the move after a sour 2012-2013 season in LA. The two biggest suitors are the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks who have both coveted the big man from the ATL for at least two years now. No one knows who will get the services of Howard next season (and I’d likely wager he hasn’t an idea, either), but this would be my argument to sway him to come to “Clutch City”.

Me: Hey, Dwight. It’s Sean O’Brien.

Dwight: Who?

Me: Well you don’t know me, but that’s beside the point. What are you up to?

Dwight: Oh, you know- working tirelessly on my post moves in the gym and trying to get better for next season.

 Me: Really?

Dwight: No, I just always hear the star players say that, so I figured it sounded appropriate. I’m just relaxing in Cali for now and trying to further my acting resume.

Me: How’s that going for you?

Dwight: Not so good. They just think it’s funny I am tall and smile a lot. You see as much talent as I have, it doesn’t translate to being marketable.

Me: Yeah, that is unique since you seem to have personality. But you know what is marketable? Winning. So in terms of your future and legacy, where do you think you’re going to play next season?

Dwight: Sean, I’m Dwight Howard. I don’t even know where I want to go for lunch, and by the time I do- I’ll have thought of ten other restaurants before the final one.

 WWDD: What would Dwight do? No one knows, not even him. 

Me: True. But what about Houston? I hear they are the frontrunners to land you.

Dwight: Yeah, it’s not July so Daryl Morey can’t contact me yet. But I have heard James Harden and Chandler Parsons talk about me to the media- so I think they definitely have an interest in me.

Me: Yeah, I mean they almost traded half their team for you last season, remember? So you could say they are interested. Parsons and you are good friends since he is from Orlando as I recall it. That should be a cherry on top of a very solid foundation for their youth movement in Houston.

Dwight: For sure. Parsons is a funny dude and a heck of a player. I think it would be fun to play with him and James. But Houston is in a small market- why would I want to go there aside from the fun and friend parts?

 Houston has a young, talented core- unlike the Lakers. 

Me: Those two are the cornerstones of Houston right now and they are 24 and 23 respectively. Add you in there, and that’s their “big three”. Throw in Jeremy Lin who is also 24 and Omer Asik who is 26 and that’s a hell of a core.  At 30, you aren’t an old man even though you have been in the league eight years. That is a very big window for that nucleus of players. Toss in the fact that Kevin McHale-one of the best post players in NBA history- is the head coach and all of it together will only benefit you.

Dwight: I mean, you’re right. But what about LA? There’s a TON of gorgeous women out here.

Me: Last time I checked, you’re luck with the women hasn’t been so great these last few years. How about you take a break from them and just focus on your livelihood and passion? The women will always be there, and Houston is not lacking attractive females, either.

Dwight: Hmm. Good point. But what about Kobe? He’s one of the most talented players in the league. Any player would die to play on the same team as him.

Me: I won’t deny that. But you do remember the whole “torn Achilles” thing? At his age and all the mileage he has on his legs, especially his knees- the recovery will be a long one for him, no matter how determined he is. Even healthy, he’s still nearing 35 years old. And when you factor in the fact that you two don’t get along-

Dwight: Sean, we are really good friends.

 BFF: Best friends for-never.

Me: Dwight, be real. No picture on Twitter, or politically correct statement can make anyone believe that’s true.  You guys don’t get along whatsoever. He wants to win no matter what. You want to win while having fun. Plus, if you don’t get your touches, you act like Randy Moss did on the Titans. Do you think you’ll continue to get the touches you want with Kobe on your team?

Dwight: No.

Me: And remember that Harden guy? He’s a dynamic talent like Kobe and only getting better- but he is also 12 years younger and more willing to include his teammates throughout the whole game. James is also locked up and is sure to be in Houston a long time. He made Omer Asik look like a star last season by being one of the better pick-and-roll guards in the league- and that’s what you thrive on. You don’t have a hook shot, or a fade away. You definitely do not have a jumper. Let’s be honest- nine years in you don’t just develop those overnight. So play to your strengths. Attack the basket and make easy buckets. Get rebounds. Be dominant and take pressure off of Harden at times while not having to be the scapegoat when things aren’t going your way.

Dwight: You mentioned Omer Asik. Won’t the fact he’s there affect my minutes?

Me: Not if :

A. He comes off the bench
B. You two play at the same time.

He’s one of the best rebounders in the league because he’s got size but also technique. He’ll only make you look better. Plus you’ll be able to challenge Memphis’ Gasol and Randolph duo. You won’t get worn down by having to be the only one in there fighting for boards. Even James and Chandler will help you on the boards. Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley are great at rebounding for guards, too. The best part about Asik is that he isn’t looking to score. He’s a worker. He grinds down the opposition, and you’ll get a ton of easy baskets due to his ability to set screens and find the open man as well. He’s a great passer for such a big guy. All of those players will help you play to your biggest strength- finishing at the rim.

Dwight: What about the coaching style? I have heard it's very similar to the one D'Antoni uses- and I hate it.

Me: Yes, you are correct. McHale does run a system very similar, but he has the right personnel for it. Last time I checked, you get up and down the floor very well for a big man. Just like in Orlando, you'll be open for many an alley-oop from Jeremy or James. No one is out for themselves in Houston. It's a very relaxed, laid back locker room with teammates that actually like each other. Also, McHale is a player's coach. He works with everyone, and will most assuredly be able to teach you more than a few of his thousands of crafty post moves. Hakeem Olajuwon won't be far away, either.

Dwight: Ok, that sounds even more enticing. But money talks and….well you know what walks. As a Laker, I am guaranteed an extra 30 million dollars over the course of my next contract if I choose to re-sign. You know what I could buy with 30 million extra dollars?

 This trophy should be Dwight's main goal. 

Me: Cars, houses, gold-seated toilets. You know what you can’t buy, Dwight? Championships. Sure, you can pawn the ring if you become broke in twenty years, but no amount of money can get give you the title of "NBA Champion". The currency that pays for that is hard work and an all-around talented team with one goal: getting to the top of the NBA mountain. And like Russell, Jordan, Kobe and LeBron, you don’t want to just get to the top. You want to stay there as long as possible.

I talked about Kobe earlier, but Nash is a year older, Metta wants out and Pau is dangled constantly as trade bait and has to be a little bitter by now. Looking back at your series against the Spurs, the young players aren’t being looked at to take the baton from Kobe. The Lakers are looking to begin a rebuild, beginning with the 2014 NBA Draft- and to do that, you not being a Laker is the first step.

Another plus to playing in the state of Texas: no state income tax. Zero percent. In California? Thirteen percent. That means over the life of your hypothetical contract with the Lakers, you would only end up making 9.3 million more. Is that worth giving up the chance to be on a title-contending team?

Dwight: But Los Angeles has a bigger market, right?

Me: The fact that Yao Ming created a strong Asian market for Rockets' basketball in Houston as well as China is only helped with Jeremy Lin's presence. That market means more money for you, as well. The Houston metropolitan area is made up of six million people, ranking fifth in the NBA. The better the Texans played, the more people wanted to see them. Winning cures all. Add you to that market? It will blow up and change the course of the franchise and the city in general for the better for years to come.

Dwight: But they also made this huge billboard on the Staples Center just for me. They really want me.

Me: No, they want the fans to see they are trying. It’s a publicity stunt- that’s all it is.

Dwight: You mentioned Texas. The Mavericks want me, too. Why should I not go there?

Me: In LA, you get the money and bright lights and a ton of pressure. In Houston, you get a young team hungry to win with less pressure and a more inclusive environment. Dallas? You get a combination of both cons from the previous two locales. You have an aging star in Dirk Nowitzki who battled injuries in 2012 and not much cap room to be able to add any more big substantial pieces. Yes, the owner would love to have you as well as the fans- but you’ll take all the blame and also miss out on all the extra money as well. Being a title contender wouldn’t be a guarantee by any stretch of the imagination.

Dwight: I am from Atlanta, and they want me. Why not play in my hometown?

Me: Because you were only going there if Chris Paul was. It sounds nice and utopian- but now that Doc Rivers is with the Clippers, Paul isn’t going anywhere.

Dwight: Won’t people call me a quitter? People said I quit on Orlando. I don’t want to quit on the Lakers.

 Houston has a big man tradition. 

Me: Well, you sort of did quit on the Magic. And you did quit on the Lakers in Game 4 against the Spurs. But in this case, you simply found a much better situation where the stars aligned- albeit a year later.  Your one-year deal is up, and you are free to go wherever YOU want to go. This isn’t about quitting on anyone. It’s about building your legacy and competing for titles. The Lakers are the most storied NBA franchise of all time, but that won’t affect how good they are in the present. You’ll have to face a little backlash, but you already have experience in that. You, like LeBron, do not enjoy being the bad guy. You pretend to, but you just want to be liked. Houston is waiting with open arms and a bright future. They also have a little success with developing big men such as Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming.

Dwight: This is such a tough decision. I should probably think it over for the whole summer before I make it.

Me: Don't do that. Get the elephant out of the room and sign by July 10th like you said you intended to.

Dwight: Should I keep people updated using my Twitter?

Me: NO.

Dwight: What would Shaq do? People are always comparing us.

Me: LeBron is not Jordan. You aren't Shaq. Be Dwight Howard, not anyone else.

Dwight: Well thank you for the unique perspective, John. Any other tips?

Me: Work on your free throws. And it's Sean, by the way.

Dwight: Thanks, Sean. I wish Kobe was this helpful. How’d you get my number again?

Me: Um, well, err.…>CLICK<

Dwight: Hello? Hello?

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Contact me on Twitter @SeanNeutron

Friday, June 14, 2013

Leave the Redskins Alone, PC Police


No, I'm not repeating the title to an article secretly disguised as an open letter to Redskins owner Daniel Snyder by Dave Zirin

That's my reaction to Zirin's article.

This piece could be construed by some as one big example of trolling in one sense, while defending a  stubborn man with a lot of money that I will never see in my lifetime.

So be it- but enough with the political correctness.

These days we think and rethink things, then we rethink what we just rethought- and even then the message we are trying to convey can be twisted and turned against us. It's the world we live in. A world that sees us try and put figurative lipstick over a pig made up of various actions and ideals, all in the hopes that we can be seen as sensitive and open-minded.

Years ago another beloved Washington franchise changed their name due to two reasons: a move into a new arena and a response to critical Washingtonians- and not for the better. Now the Wizards are mulling over a return to the Bullets label, one I am all for. It's a fierce and dynamic name not meant to be perceived as violent, but I digress.

Dan Snyder was quoted as saying "We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."

Caps or no caps- that is not the question. The question is do I agree with Mr. Snyder?

Simply put: YES. In all caps.

For a man that has drawn the ire of many a 'Skins fan over the years for the way he chooses to run his team, he can not be more on point regarding his stance. As an outsider looking in and not a Redskins fan-but a DMV resident- I share the struggle fans have had with Snyder over the years, but now share Snyder's defiance in the face of the PC Police.

Why change now? In 2013, when many more pressing issues are at hand (the economy, the war on terrorism, etc) people choose to bring this overblown issue to the forefront? I suppose at the moment I am guilty even by simply responding via this blog- sue me.

We live in a time where kids have no idea what cassette tapes or VHS tapes were. Floppy disk? Yeah, right. They barely know what CDs are, let alone a name frowned upon  eighty  years ago. No one (aside from those who bolster the PC Police) associate the name Redskins as a derogatory term.

The Redskins and then-coach Joe Gibbs won three Super Bowls from  1982 to 1991. They have a history, a lineage, a loyal fan-base spread throughout the country. This isn't a young upstart failure of a team like the Charlotte Bobcats (sorry lone Bobcat fan and Your Airness). This is a team with one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league and is on the rise in the NFC.

Where would it stop? Rename the Cleveland Indians, too? How about the Atlanta Braves? What about the Boston Celtics and Notre Dame- I mean both teams imply that Irish people have hot tempers and love to fight. Can I take offense to that? As a Vikings fan and Catholic can I be aghast at the fact they were known for killing churchmen and destroying church sites?

Leave the Redskins alone, Dave Zirin and others who follow that line of thinking. Because if you don't and the name were to somehow get changed, you'd have opened up a Pandora's box for this to happen anywhere in sports.

I know you don't need it, Mr. Snyder- but I got your back on this one.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Live, on Pay-Per-View! MLB Presents: BaseBrawl

The sweet smell of freshly cut grass. Literal ball park hot dogs. The crack of the bat in pre-game warmups. The sheer size of any baseball field/stadium. The fact that baseball is the national past time.  These are all great reasons to fall in love with a game that dates back to 1842, but one that always gets my attention is simple:  the bench-clearing brawls.

First, there has to be an incident to set it off (one key moment, or a collection of tense moments that add up until tempers flare eventually).  Then once it all boils over, they always pan out to a camera angle that shows the full view of the field, with benches and bullpens clearing. It’s a spectacle that never ceases to amaze, and the best pull-apart brawls are similar to those in wrestling, as they are a common staple to help build feuds.

Last night, baseball fans were treated to quite an entertaining match-up between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers in Los Angeles in more ways than one. The Dodgers’ rookie phenom Yasiel Puig was hit in the nose (not directly) and was administered a concussion test on the field.  Everyone (especially the Diamondbacks) was well aware that retaliation was coming. This is known as one of the sport’s biggest unwritten rules. That was not the issue.

The problem was that it took Zach Greinke four tries to nail catcher Miguel Montero with a 91 mile per hour fastball.

"You get one shot," Arizona reliever Brad Ziegler told "He took four shots. He kept going after him until he hit him. If he takes one shot and hits him, it's over. But you can't just keep throwing at him. I've heard that since high school.”

The action picks up in the bottom of the seventh when Greinke is at bat and is drilled on the left shoulder by Ian Kennedy.

Words might not be able to do this brawl justice- but I’ll try. 

 Tonight's 7th inning is brought to you by the letters "F" and "U":

:04- Well that looked painful. Greinke is ok, but stunned somewhat.

:05- Crowd: “OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH no he di’int.”

:10- Kennedy is ejected as everyone (including himself) expected. He walks off without a remote struggle.

:15- Here is the panoramic view of the field with benches clearing. This could be fun. ::Grabs popcorn::

:19- Greinke is all “Ok guys, I need to get to first. I was hit.” Every other player on both teams blocks his path to first, forming a gigantic mass of collective humanity along the first baseline.

:28- The action really picks up and the crowd is feeling it. Reminds me of the Attitude Era in WWE with Austin/McMahon.

:38- The contrast of blue and red reminds me of Halo Wars.

:45- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is fully involved in the brawl. I would call him a “player’s manager” in the most accurate of senses. 

:54- All I can think as I see the gloves and hats strewn about on the field is how I would make the WORST baseball player during a brawl, wandering by myself away from the crowd

“Guys, you do that fighting thing- but I need to find my hat. Where is my hat?”

1:02- “No sense calling names- they’re all there.”- announcer. About as well put as can be.

This seems like a good moment to mention how fitting it would be if Diamondback players were on the attack with strikes while Los Angeles players moved out of the way every time.

1:34- Mark McGwire mad. Mark McGwire SMASH.

2:17- Guys, the crowd is in a lull. Lets’s keep fighting! We have a pay per view to sell this Sunday! O wait, no we don’t.

2:40- Go home, Puig- you’re angry.

2:45- Mark, you’re 15 minutes were up years ago. Don’t try and make this your 16th minute.

3:03- The umpires are handling this a hell of a lot better than the producers of Real World: Portland.

The events that led to this helped build the proper amount of tension, and the anticipation was at its absolute climax leading up to Greinke getting plunked in the bottom of the seventh. THAT is how you build up to a match up.

Maybe Vince McMahon and the WWE could learn a thing or two from these two teams in how to properly build up a match-up between two heavyweights. It would certainly beat Monday night’s lifeless and anti-climactic “pull-apart” brawl between Ryback, Cena and thirty wrestlers.

And from the looks of it, the score is not settled.

Always leave them wanting more, Vince- not less.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard: Going Through the Motions

There are certain film franchises, whether it be horror or action, that can pump out great products and stay relevant years later. The "Die Hard" franchise was one of those.


When Live Free or Die Hard came out in 2007 after a twelve-year hiatus, no one would have been surprised if they mailed it in or if the people involved with it simply could not make it relevant to the current times. Except that they did, and did so exceptionally well. They brought back our old hero (Willis), gave him a new kind of partner (Justin Long) and introduced a new villain and actor to the masses (Timothy Olyphant), along with his assistant and new Hollywood hottie (Maggie Quigley).

On top of a superb cast, Mark Bomback penned an incredible script with a plot that involved more than "let's shoot bad guys." It all just...clicked.

After that movie's success, I expected another entry for the franchise no more than two or three years later. The feeling reminded me of one often seen on t-shirts.

I waited six years and all I got was this crappy movie. 

John McClane (Willis) seems to be minding his own business when his son, Jack (played by Jai Courtney), gets in a bind while working in Russia. Turns out the young McClane is working as a CIA operative against who else? Terrorists.

Willis heads to Russia to sort out the mess and mend his almost non-existent relationship with his son. A bond that consists of awkwardly shallow dialogue, typically during shootout scenes. Great timing, Bruce. The dialogue feels unnecessary and geriatric by McClane standards.

The whole time I watched the film, I felt like I was watching a video game. Basic dialogue followed by lots of shooting. *Level Completed*. Nothing about it felt related to the Die Hard franchise.

The film clocks in at a very short 98 minutes, which seems to be foreshadowing of how "complex" it is. The initial evil villain we are introduced to named Alik (Rasha Bukvic) never seems to be ultra evil or scary. He's just an asshole with a large gun and a penchant for hating America and anyone associated with it.

Unlike 2007's Live Free or Die Hard, the outcome never seemed to be in doubt. Granted, we all know Willis will be the victor in the end- but it's the job of the writer (Skip Woods) and director (John Moore) to make it seem in doubt.

While no one expects a cinematographic masterpiece from this franchise, you would expect more. Those involved just failed to deliver.

This is not the last film as in 2015 there will be Die Hardest. What's next? Die Hardest..Again? Die Hard: Afterlife? While one franchise (Fast and Furious) is going strong at number six with an intriguing seventh on the way, Die Hard has ironically gone the way of it's own name at number five.