Before we take a look at the weekend ahead, we have to talk about the action that went down at the NBA trade deadline. Actually, I think it would be more appropriate to discuss the action that didn't go down at the deadline. If you happened to be one of the people closely monitoring ESPN.com's trade blog and saw the reports from Marc Stein at around noon today that the Cavs were talking to the Suns about Shaq, well, let's just say that it was pretty darn anti-climatic 45 minutes later when he reported there was no way the deal was going to happen. Sure, I was devastated that we weren't going to see Shaq and LeBron develop a heart warming bromance over the next several months, but I was more perplexed than devastated. Perplexed about what? Well, let's just say that I can't for the life of me understand how in the world the Cavs didn't find a way to turn Wally Szczerbiak's expiring contract into the Larry O'Brien Trophy!
Listen, I'm not going to bore with you a long and detailed analysis of why the Cavs had the opportunity of a lifetime here. All I'm going to say is that, even more than a star player, the most attractive thing to a possible trading partner is an expiring contract. And, when you have $13M worth of an expiring contract (I know, I can't believe Wally makes $13M/year), and you are almost a mortal lock to face the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals and probably the Lakers or Spurs in the Finals, AND you may only have one more shot after this season with LeBron, you HAVE to use that expiring contract to make yourself better. I understand the Cavs have great chemistry, and I understand they very well may be the best team in the league as they are, but can you really look me in the eye and tell me they couldn't have upgraded from Wally? The fact of the matter is that this should have never come down to the trade deadline. The Cavs have had nine months to find a way to deal Wally's expiring contract, and they just didn't get it done. If they come up short this summer, they have no one but Danny Ferry to blame. On the bright side, it's always fun to blame a Duke guy. Ferry, however, is not alone. Portland's inability to parlay Raef LaFrentz's $12.7 M into something positive was almost as negligent...almost!
Well, enough second guessing. I'm pretty sure Danny Ferry and Kevin Pritchard aren't going to lose any sleep over my opinion, so let's move on and talk about this weekend. In the sports abyss that is the time between the Super Bowl and March Madness, what can we find to pass the time this weekend? I'm glad you asked:
1) Lakers v. New Orleans - Friday @ 10:30 on ESPN
Possibly the most likeable young star in the League vs. the exact opposite. For the record, I've made it clear that I think Kobe is one of the all-time greats. But, if you watched last night's Lakers @ Warriors game, you saw the absolute worst of Kobe. He was selfish. He was surly. And, worst of all, he incessantly bitched at the refs. Honestly, no matter how great he is on the court, and he is phenomenal, do you honestly think anybody has ever enjoyed being his teammate? Hell, do you honestly think anybody other than his parents like him? I know, I'm being presumptuous. His Dad seems fairly normal, so he probably doesn't like him either.
2) UNC @ Maryland - Saturday @ 3:30 on ABC
Maryland must win. No two ways about that. UNC must avoid stumbling in the homestretch to preserve its #1 seed. Carolina should win this game going away, but strange things tend to happen in College Park when Gary and the Terps have their back to the wall. I remember this one trip to College Park back in '99....nevermind. Moving on...
3) Boston @ Phoenix - Sunday @ 2:30 on ABC
The C's are the defending champs and have re-assumed their position as the team everybody loves to beat. And, in case you haven't noticed, the Suns are scoring points faster than Lindsay Lohan smokes cigarettes. This is going to be fun. If the Suns win this one, we really have to start paying attention.
4) Wake @ Duke - Sunday @ 7:30 on FSN
Wake looked great against Tech last night. Then again, it was Tech. Duke ended their two game skid tonight in the Garden against St. John's. This is a nice old fashioned Tobacco Road battle against two teams that aren't good enough to make the Final Four. Don't tell their fans, though. Trust me, they won't listen. While we are here, let me ask a question. Do you think a single player on this year's Duke team would have cracked the top 7 on any single Duke team from 1990 - 2004? Obviously, I wouldn't be asking the question if I thought the answer was "yes". Don't you love it when you can make a point in the form of a question? Who doesn't love that. (Forgive me, I'm rambling. There are only 10 minutes left in the first half of the Celtics @ Jazz. You know what that means. Only 10 minutes until Chuck's halftime "analysis". Suffice it to say, I give Chuck an A+ on his return).
5) Idaho @ Reno - NBA D League, Sunday
6) The Oscars - Sunday @ 8:00 on ABC
Have we ever seen a bigger lock than Heath Ledger? Seriously, two points about the Oscars:
1) How did "Gran Torino" not receive any nominations? Clint Eastwood becoming a better man through his relationship with two young Hmong teenagers and ultimately sacrificing his life to protect them. Are you serious? How can you read that sentence and not think "15 Oscar nominations"? For the record, I really enjoyed "Gran Torino", but I didn't think it was a great movie. That being said, I'm stunned it received zero nominations. Isn't Clint worth at least a "best director" nod?
2) "Slumdog" is nominated for 10 Oscars. If it doesn't win at least 7, I will be angry. If it doesn't win "best picture", I'm demanding a full scale investigation. The only other defensible choice is "Frost/Nixon". But, hasn't the Republican Party suffered enough?
Finally, I feel like I have to say something about the Griffey debacle. Well, here it is: I wouldn't have been thrilled if the Braves had sealed the deal. I'm furious that they didn't. In other words, this was a no win proposition from the beginning. I'm a big fan of those. Keep the hits coming, Frank Wren. At this rate, you will succeed in your apparent quest to kill me in no time.
Oh, one last thing: the Link of the Week is Hoopshype. I didn't have time to find another link this week because I spent so much time on hoopshype studying every player's salaries and trying to figure out every possible trade we might see. And, I'm proud to say I totally called Skip to My Lou to Orlando. Okay, that's not true, but I did have a feeling the Magic wouldn't stand pat with Ty Lue running the point. Call it a hunch.
I hope you all have a great weekend. Check back early next week for life altering insight.