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David West, the People’s Champ

David West is taking charge of the Indiana Pacers. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

David West is saying everything to rile up the Pacers fans. West is perpetuating the idea that they are indeed the underdog by saying that they deserve to be here.

As oxymoronic as it sounds, West is fiery about the issue of being underrated, furthering the idea of them being underrated.

After yelling at his team to get off the floor immediately after winning game two, West again demonstrated in his game three post-game interview that the Pacers will not go down easy.

“We will not back down or take anything from any team,” said West to SI.com. “We are not going to be pushed around.”

In order for the Pacers to shed the tag of underdog, they need to avoid sounding like one in interviews. They should not just say they deserve to be in this position, but accept that they are in this position. Live in the moment and give the impression that this is how it was supposed to be all along. It goes back to the fundamental idea of walking the walk and not talking the talk. Actions speak louder than words. You know the drill.

West, meanwhile, is putting his stake in the ground as leader of this Indiana team in just his first year in Indianapolis. His leadership will be good for a team coming into its own and finding its identity.

For now, Indiana remains the underdog that refuses to be identified as such by hinting at the fact that they indeed are an underdog. Confusing, right?

However, as long as the Pacers continue to do most of the nation a favor by beating the Heat, I don’t see NBA fans complaining.

DWHINE Wade: Heat Unhappy with Loss

Wade

The struggles didn’t seem to end for Wade in Thursday’s loss. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

After Thursday night’s 94-75 blowout loss to the Pacers, it is safe to say that Dwayne Wade is not a happy man.

Wade finished the game 2-15 from the field, netting just five points. Wade did not make a shot the entire first half.

The climax of Wade’s frustration occurred in the third quarter when he got into a confrontation with Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. Wade chewed Spoelstra up and down, even dropping his gum in Spoelstra’s ear while yelling into it.

Once again, like I wrote yesterday concerning the Lakers, the Heat need to cool down. They need to focus on what they do well.

This is another case of a team playing with a tremendous amount of talent, an amount that is far too much for the coach to handle. Much like Mike Brown, Spoelstra does not have the personality to handle all of the personalities on his team.

The Lakers, however, showed improvement last night – at least for 46 of the 48 minutes. As I said, they needed to come together and realize what with which they were working. The defense improved and the Lakers very nearly pulled out a difficult road victory.

Meanwhile, the Heat are now in the same situation. They need to realize they have the best talent and potential in the league. They must play as a team. Right now, the Thunder and the Spurs have the best teams because they play as teams. The players on those teams are comfortable with one another and work as a cohesive unit.

The Heat need to put it all together as do the Lakers. Granted, playing without Chris Bosh does not help Miami’s cause. Roy Hibbert put the hurt to Miami’s frontcourt Thursday with 19 points and 18 rebounds. Hibbert also added five blocks on defense.

Give credit to the Pacers for taking advantage of the poor teamwork displayed by the Heat. Miami needs to be careful because there is no doubting the momentum being in Indiana’s favor. This team came to play. Fans only hope that the Heat show up as well.

Shots will come for Wade and the Heat, but forcing the issue will not work. They must be patient and utilize the skills they possess. They are undersized, unmotivated and unhappy right now. Teamwork can turn that around with a quickness.

The Real World, Los Angeles (Lakers Edition)

KobeThe Lakers have problems. After watching the Thunder’s 29-point slaughtering of LA Monday, there is no denying that the Lake Show has some major technical difficulties.

However, let us not be hasty. After all, LA is fresh off a brutal seven-game series with the Nuggets. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City has been resting for a week and change.

That does not mean things will magically become easier for the Lakers now that game one is out of the way. LA simply must realize what folks have been saying since last year’s series loss to the Mavericks. Pay attention to what people are saying. Surprisingly, many people – aside from the misshapen (or should we just say out-of-shape) television analysts – have a good idea of where problems lie within the team. The same things have been said, like I mentioned, since last year’s playoffs:

  • Pau Gasol is soft. Need we remind Gasol that he is seven feet tall? As one of the team’s primary offensive weapons, Gasol cannot end a game with ten points and seven rebounds. He needs to score under the basket and from midrange, as we have seen him do so well in the past. And he needs to crash the boards and play to his size.
  • Andrew Bynum does not play to his full potential. The Lakers have dealt with this from the day Bynum walked in the door. Bynum has played well this postseason, but a premium performance is not guaranteed from the big man (see: 11-point game six versus Nuggets).
  • Mike Brown is a poor motivator. During game one with the Thunder when the “InsideTrax” portion of the TNT broadcast came on, it showed Kobe Bryant in the huddle rallying the troops. Brown added a triumphant “yeah” during one of Bryant’s lessons.
  • The Lakers have a deficient backcourt. Other than Bryant, the Lakers have essentially no help at guard now that Derek Fisher is on the opposing bench. What they need to do is utilize the strengths of the guards they do have. Let Steve Blake shoot. Get Ramon Sessions playing inside-out, utilizing the drive-and-kick. The guys they have possess some strong qualities. The Lakers need to let those show.
  • The Lakers don’t play defense well. Watch a recap of game one. Look at the laziness with which LA plays. It’s simple: get back in transition, switch on screens, get out on shooters, yadda, yadda, yadda. Play defense how coach taught in third grade.

Those are five of the basic complaints surrounding the Lakers. The thing is, those are easy fixes. LA is currently playing like it is part of a reality show. Everything somehow goes wrong, none of the players likes one another, they start conflict for the sake of starting conflict (i.e. Devin Ebanks, the player formerly known as Ron Artest). The solution? Play together. The Lakers need to play as if they want to win. 16 championships did not come from playing as they are. A 17th certainly will not turn those tables.

Six Things I Learned Watching Soccer

When I woke up this morning, I flipped on my television to see the highlights of the Nuggets and Lakers game, which I missed last night. I was upset to find the Norwich City v. Arsenal game – er, match – on my set. (I found out later I was on the wrong channel.)

I am no soccer fan. But since receiving a Manchester United jersey from my father last weekend before the Manchester Derby, I decided that maybe now was the time to find a team and learn more about the league(s?).

I made myself watch the entire Norwich City v. Arsenal match. I went into it thinking that it would end up like almost every other soccer game I had watched to this point (save World Cup matches) by me changing the station or turning the television off entirely out of boredom.

However, I found myself glued to the match. I even took my computer downstairs to the dining hall and stayed put until the conclusion of the match. The game was captivating.

Therefore, in honor of the first six goals I witnessed in my first day as a soccer fan (the match ended in a 3-3 draw), here are six things I learned watching soccer.

1.) More “serious” injuries happen in soccer than in any other sport. This is one reason I dislike watching soccer. On nearly every play there is someone falling down writhing in “pain” after a “foul.” (Commonly known as “flopping.”) What bugs me more is that flopping is invading the sports I have always enjoyed watching. Hardly any of the player control fouls (charges) called in basketball are full-contact. Now, even NFL players are faking injury as part of game strategy. Remember the Giants’ Deon Grant’s sudden injury and rapid recovery against the driving St. Louis Rams last season. Let us hope that the flopping ceases sometime soon.

2.) Soccer players have miserable hair. Arsenal’s Robin van Persie looks as if his hair never made it out of the third grade. His teammate, Abou Diaby, has some sort of dreadlocked combover. Should we even get into Alex Song’s wig?

Arsenal’s Robin van Persie, celebrates with teammate Arsenal’s Abou Diaby after scoring against Norwich City, during their English Premier League soccer match at Emirates stadium in London, Saturday, May 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Bogdan Maran)

Norwich City’s Wes Hoolahan (L) challenges Arsenal’s Alex Song during their English Premier League soccer match at Emirates Stadium in London May 5, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

3.) Soccer players have great names. Yes, his hair is woefully hideous, but how cool is the name “Alex Song”?

4.) Soccer players are not the best athletes in the world (basketball players are), but they are the best conditioned. In an athletic skills test, I will take LeBron James over almost any soccer player out there. However, the sheer level of conditioning of soccer players is magnificent. The amount of running done in one match would put me in my bed for a few days.

5.) Watching soccer makes me feel pretentious. This dawned upon me as I sat with my legs crossed watching the match, eating a parfait and sipping a hot beverage. Watching soccer while wearing a retro powder blue LaDanian Tomlinson Chargers jersey and sweatpants makes me feel less pretentious. This is fairly self-explanatory. And I was drinking coffee. At least it wasn’t tea.

6.) I think I can become a soccer fan. Most of all, this match was fun to watch. I never thought I could get excited about a draw in any sport, but this game kept me on the edge of my seat. I’m excited to watch the other matches this week when I can. And now that I have a Manchester United jersey, I have a vested interest. Who knows? This could be my gateway sport into liking hockey as well. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Bottom line, I enjoyed watching a soccer match today and I hope to enjoy more of the same in the future.

Facebook: The Nature of the Beast

I, once a strong-willed man, caved. I reactivated my facebook.

I know what you are thinking, I never thought I would either. Most of my friends can tell you, I was very stubborn in my rejection of the popular social media site. I had no problem reminding people, “I don’t have facebook.”

That, however, is in the past now. As much as I did not want to, I rejoined facebook because of what my time away from it told me. I lost touch with a lot of people…a lot of people. I did not intend to, but without that constant blip of status updates and photos, I simply forgot about people. It does not mean that I meant or wanted to, I just did.

I made it a goal this year, kind of a New Year’s resolution, to pay more attention to news. After all, being a journalism major essentially requires you to be in touch with what is going on in the world.

For the most part, I think I have done a good job. I will remember articles that I have read, videos I have watched and the like during everyday conversation with folks. But it dawned upon me last week that I was not in touch with the news that should matter most to me: The news of my friends and family.

It was not until last week when I realized the “media” aspect of social media. I realized I had been going about facebook all wrong. When I was young and stupid (i.e. two weeks ago), I despised the idea of facebook because I did not want “everybody” knowing so much about me. I did not want my information easily accessible on the Internet, despite having nothing to hide, mind you.

Then I realized that American journalists have fought for transparency since the origination of this country. What I was doing by removing myself from public view was eliminating transparency.

As journalists, we are the representatives of the public and we, therefore, become public figures in doing so. That realization made me go back to facebook.

Does this mean I am going to post everything I do on the Internet? Not in a million years. Even public figures need privacy. But I see this return to mainstream society as a way to reconnect with the people closest to me and the content they produce.

This brand of news is that on which I should be educated the most.

Signs of Age

Steve Nash before Thursday's game against the Spurs. This is perhaps Nash's last time playing for the Phoenix Suns as his contract is up at the end of the season. (Getty)

I’m old.

Not extremely old, but I’m getting there. Here I am, a 20-year-old college student almost two years into a journalism degree and compensating for lack of athletic ability with writing skills.

You know how I know I’m old? I am most likely losing my childhood idol tonight.

I knew I would eventually reach the point where my favorite athletes began retiring and championship-chasing toward the end of their career. Now I know the players going into their respective halls of fame. Soon enough I’ll remember vivid details of watching those players do what they did best. I’ll know exactly why they are entering the hall rather than just pretending I do from reading books and watching YouTube highlight reels.

Steve Nash is one of those players. I cannot say that I have been a Nash fan since he entered the league. I was all of four years old and some change when he entered the league. I only became an avid Phoenix Suns fan when I saw Stephon Marbury donning the then new orange alternate uniforms in an early-2000s issue of SLAM Magazine. Being from Cincinnati, there was not a team too close for me to really attach to. I had my pick.

It was around that time when sports truly began to mean something to me. I was exploring the world of video games and remembering which players played on which team, who had what skills, etc.

I remember Amar’e Stoudemire’s rookie season with the Suns. I would get upset because, while Stoudemire enjoyed a season in which he won the Rookie of the Year award in 2002-’03, video-game Amar’e was awful. Shame on me for thinking video games could be realistic.

While Stoudemire was my first love with Phoenix, Nash quickly stole the spotlight. I could not get enough of watching Nash play. His charisma, vision and quickness was is something to behold. It captivated me.

I tried to craft my game to be like his. Up until last year, I even grew my hair to look like his (sorry, Mom).

That’s something almost every boy and young man goes through, that idolatry of a particular athlete. Nash was that athlete for me.

So Wednesday night when I was watching the Suns play the Jazz I kept thinking tomorrow could be the last time I watch Steve Nash play basketball in a Suns uniform.

Although it will most likely benefit the Suns basketball-wise to move on from the Nash era, focus on rebuilding and enjoy the lottery pick they were granted with Wednesday’s loss, I wanted them to win. I wanted the Suns in the playoffs. It is against all common sense to say that Phoenix would be better served to lose in the first round to the Spurs than to get an earlier pick to sure up their future, but I didn’t care.

I didn’t want the Nash era to end.

Today, as I proudly wore my Suns cap around campus after last night’s loss, I thought. All I could think today was tonight I will probably be watching my favorite athlete of all time play his final game with my favorite team…and it means nothing.

The Spurs clinched the top seed in the West. The Suns are eliminated from the playoffs. What does this game mean?

As much as I want to watch Steve Nash end his Suns career dazzling the crowd as only he can, fighting for the team’s life, I know that this game against the Spurs is meaningless.

It’s difficult for a fan to deal with. I didn’t have a problem with Albert Pujols leaving the Cardinals because the last memory I had of him with my team was exactly what I mentioned: him fighting for his team’s life. (Luckily, the memory ended up being a World Series victory, something I will never forget.)

So I have tried to find meaning for this game. Yes, the final score and end result will mean nothing at the end of the day. But I want to remember a win. I want to remember Nash being Nash. I want to remember this game and remember it as one of my favorite memories of my favorite athlete: Steve Nash’s last game as a Phoenix Sun.

Of course, it is not a sure thing that he will leave Phoenix next season. All signs point to yes, but there is a chance he will stay. I’m not holding out hope. The Suns could possibly have room to sign a maximum contract player or two and keep Nash. But, once again, I won’t hold out hope.

I’ll take tonight’s game against the Spurs to remember why Nash became my favorite player and such an important part of my life. He is a role model to me. I’ll forever remember the great memories I built watching him play every time I look at that picture of him on my wall.

I just wish I weren’t so old.

Ohio v. Buffalo, Part II: My Nose is Still Running

Remember yesterday when I gushed about the joys of covering baseball at Bob Wren Stadium at Ohio University? All of that goes away when it’s 45 degrees outside and you have to pee the whole time but are too embarrassed to ask where the bathroom is.

After Ohio handled Buffalo Saturday, I realized that I have a conditional love for covering baseball.

I do realize also that this is just part of the reason I love what I do, the unpredictability. It’s difficult to think that one day I could perhaps be paid to watch sports. Like Dick Vitale says, “It’s like stealing money.”

To robbery,

–BP

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