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Archive for June, 2010

Ni Hao Yi

“Nice trade from the Wiz – apparently we’re trying to stockpile foreign centers who can’t play”.  This is the text message Gay for Jay sent me yesterday.  He was very wrong about one thing: there was no trade here because the Wiz did not give up a damn thing.  The Nets just gave us Yi and we used out trade exemption to pay him.  I guess we sent Ross to the Nets, but we didn’t want him anyway so while I guess technically a trade was done, we didn’t lose anything we liked.  We in fact got rid of someone whom we did not want.

Plus we got Yi.

I like the trade.  We get Yi for one year free to see if he can make something of himself.  He’s not Dirk Nowitzki, but he’s big and has a decent shot.  It looks like the Wiz want an insurance policy if Blatche is not around at the beginning of the season due to his broken foot.

But maybe the dude will like playing here – being Chinese and the Verizon Center being located in Chinatown.  If this trade shows nothing else, it reveals further how much of a brilliant business man Leonsis is:  he now brings into the mix the one player who will tap potential fans who live in the same neighborhood as the arena.

I wonder who else we can get from these desperate, pathetic teams trying to acquire LeTravel?  Michael Beasley from Miami, Blake Griffin from the Clippers, David Lee from the Knicks?

Double vision:  The Nats bounced back last night after the offense and defense had an official “DNP”  the previous night when Strasburg pitched.  Every win brings hope for a turnaround and every loss makes that turnaround feel more and more unlikely.

For today, I’m optimistic.

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The U.S. played a strong game against Ghana on Saturday night, but it was not enough.

Throughout the tournament, I have been rooting for African teams to do well, as I always do.  But obviously, this World Cup holds special significance to Africa and I couldn’t help but get moved when after the game was over, I saw all the Ghanaian flags waving with the powerful symbol of the black star at their center.

That being said, I was rooting hard for the U.S. to win.  The match was evenly played in the sense that Ghana dominated the 1st half while we dominated the 2nd half.  It was sad to see the U.S. go down as they would have had a change to beat Uruguay.  Maybe Ghana has even a better chance.

I won’t over-analyze the game which is now more than 24 hours old, but I will say that the U.S. lost this game in the mid-field for the most part, constantly giving free possessions to Ghana and not pressuring the Ghanaian mid-field as they entered the U.S. side of the field.

Around town on Saturday, there was a lot of buzz about the game. I took my daughter to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and had a couple of conversations about the game; where people were going to watch and what were our chances of victory.

It’s too bad.

On another World Cup note, while it is clear that Germany and Argentina played better than their opponents, the two blown calls in yesterday’s game took so much pleasure away from the game.  I would rather have 0-0 games than giving free goals like the one Argentina was awarded.  And the poor English.  While they didn’t play well, there’s no doubt the game would have changed if the proper call was made and the English’s 2nd goal had counted, swinging all the momentum to England and tying the game.

Makes your stomach turn.

Double vision: How humiliating for the Nats?  We are now 10 games under .500 and were swept by the Orioles after having leads of 3 runs or more in each of the 3 games.

Makes your stomach turn.

So our great stretch of 18 games with an easy schedule and an opportunity to stay in the division race has proven to be our undoing.  I was hoping for 12-6 or 11-7.  The reality:   6-12 and totally out of the race.

Makes your stomach turn.

Triple vision: Leonsis has succeeded in creating a buzz with John Wall.  I was wearing my Bullets shirt yesterday and two different tellers behind the register struck up a conversation with me by saying almost the exact same words:  “So I guess, we’re officially allowed to have hope about the Wizards”.

We then went on to talk about how Leonsis has earned the right to have the benefit of the doubt, but how we thought the hero’s welcome on Friday was a bit much.

Then the Caps came up and we talked about how next year will be better and while we can talk about the playoffs and not reach for a bottle of hard alcohol, there is still a little something there which lingers under the surface. Then I mentioned that they had drafted another Russian dude and the conversation ran dry a little.

Then Albert Haynesworth came up and we talked and talked and dropped some four-letter words.

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Did Ovie need to welcome John Wall by doing the bicep dance?

Did Strasburg need to welcome John Wall to D.C. even though he himself has not been in D.C. for even a month?

Ovie is the best player in hockey.  Strasburg has more strikeouts through 4 starts than any other pitcher.  Ever.

The welcome given to John Wall was way over the top.

Leonsis knows how to market.  Leonsis knows what he’s doing by putting Wall on the side of the Verizon center. Everyone is excited about Wall.  Hell, even the security guard at my school had a John Wall t-shirt today, compliments of Leonsis at last night’s Mystics game.

I just think it’s all a bit much to put on this 19 year old kid before he has dribbled a basketball for this team.  And this whole thing of making today John Wall today in D.C. was a little ridiculous.  This is D.C., not Scranton, PA.

Besides, isn’t it possible that all this talk of how Wall is the new face of the franchise is a little bit insulting to Blatche and Arenas, dudes who have shown that they can play in this league.

I like John Wall being a Wizard.  I love that he is a Wizard.  But I want this thing to work out and I think before Leonsis thinks about how to sell tickets for the 2010 season, he needs to think about how a 19 year old is going to handle all this pomp and circumstance and how is he going to fit into a team with a lot of personality.

By the way, there is no way that John Wall should get #11 as has been discussed by some.  #11 is for  “the Big E” here in D.C., for one of the men who brought D.C. our only professional basketball championship.  Create your own legacy Wall with a different number that does not represent D.C. sports loyalty.

Of course, this celebration of our future comes with a harsh dose of reality from our present as we hear that Blatche has broken his foot and will return to the court only in the days immediately preceding training camp.  Tough luck “7 days”.

Double vision: Tomorrow’s match between Ghana and the U.S. will feature two gifted offensive teams.  It’s too bad that they have to play each other as in addition to Greece and the U.S., I have been rooting for Ghana to do well this tournament. I like the way they play and I always root for African teams since they are such big underdogs.

This Ghana team however is rugged, skilled and organized and I think the U.S. will have its hands full.  I fear that Ghana may be the more inspired side playing in front of what should be a very pro-African crowd.

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I did not watch any of the NBA draft.  Like all other drafts, I find it to be extremely boring.  But unlike the draft, the Wizards did not have just another ho-hum night after selecting John Wall with the 1st pick – an obvious move which I fully support.  (Just don’t ask me to do the bicep shuffle he does).

Apparently Grunsfeld loves Kirk Hinrich.  I’m not exactly sure why.  He seems okay, but nothing great.  The word is that Hinrich helped Rose develop in Chicago.  If that’s the logic for bringing him here, then that means that the Wizards are so scared of Arenas’ influence on Wall that they are willing to eat $17 million over the next 2 years and a future 2nd round pick just to not have Arenas try to convince Wall to take a dump in Andray Blatche’s shoe.

Geez, Arenas is not a psycho-path.  Are the Wizards going to try to trade this presumed psycho-path to another team now that we have shooting guard here?  Who’s gonna take him?

It seems to me that the Wizards did not have to throw in pick as well to make this deal go.  If Chicago really wanted to move Hinrich, then make them do it without getting a pick from us.

Then with the 17th pick, we get a dude from France whom I’ve never heard of.  Can’t comment because I’ve never seen him play, nor had even heard his name before I read it on the internet.

Let’s assume he can come in and play this year.

Then we got two more dudes in a deal with Minnesota.  I have seen both  Booker and N’Diaye play ( the latter in Rutgers’ crushing upset of G’town during last season) and both are athletic small forward/power forward types who can jump a ton and run the floor.  Sort of smaller versions of Javale McGee.  Both seem like projects, but let’s see what Flip can do with them getting them straight from college, unlike Nick Young who now seems to have been further demoted with the addition of Hinrich.

It’s sad that Miller and Foye are no longer in our plans.  These are the dudes we sacrificed the 5th pick for and neither panned out for us.  I’m not sad for them as players, but for us as fans as the Wiz screwed up draft night last year.

Let’s hope we are writing something very different come this time next year.

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Coming up empty

I am glad that Ovie did not win the MVP last night. It would have rang a little hollow after our terrible playoff performance.  Double for Mike Green as he turned in his 2nd stinker of a post-season.

I am glad that Theodore won the Masterton trophy.  Nothing can make up for what he’s been through, but at least he was honored by everyone associated in the NHL for his courage in dealing with a situation that as a parent is something I cannot fathom.

I do think it’s cool that Ovie won the Lindsay/Pearson trophy.  It’s hard to say that anyone in the game is better than him and to get the award from his peers for the 3rd year in a row, something only done previously by Gretsky and LaFleur, is pretty sweet.

Frankly though, as a Caps fan, I’m sick of the individual awards – I want a parade and  from here forward, it will be interesting to see what GMGM and Leonsis do to improve the team so that next year, none of us will give a damn about the NHL awards because we will still be drunk off our Stanley Cup victory champagne.

Double vision: Strasburg was masterful again yesterday and it wasn’t even his best day. I will say that it was amazing how many hits the Royals got off of him with an 0-2 or 1-2 count. It makes me think that Strasburg should make some of these hitters go fishing for some bad pitches when he is so far ahead in the count.

All the same, the Nats had two great opportunities to tie the game up or get ahead and blew it.

Inexcusable.

Our bats are absolutely dead.  What the hell is going on?

Somebody who knows a lot more about baseball than me has to do something about the lineup because when all these guys come up, everyone has good stats on t.v.  Zimmerman, Dunn and Willingham are a very good 3 through 5. Nyjer Morgan is supposed to be a good lead off man and Guzman is a perfect 2nd spot in the lineup.  Rodriguez has been very efficient with his swing and is batting a high percentage while Desmond has been clutch and Bernadina’s average has been rising for 2 weeks.

Yet still no runs.

What gives?

It’s nice to see good crowds at the park even when Strasburg is not pitching.  It’s amazing how one man is making everyone pay more attention.

The Nats have not quit, nor has anyone quit on them.  Maybe someone can sacrifice a chicken or something to resurrect our bats.

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Landon Donovan lines up the kick that propelled America to a 1-0 victory over Algeria and sent us to the round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup.

Since the World Cup began, things have fortunately been winding down at the school where I teach.  As such, I have been able to watch many of the games live on my computer through ESPN3. Yesterday was no different and around 9:50, still a little despondent after Greece’s loss on Tuesday, but hopeful that America would win thus sending at least one of the two teams I have been rooting for into the knockout round, I casually pulled up ESPN3 only to see that it was not working.

PANIC!

I immediately ran downstairs to the tech guy who works at my school who is also a huge soccer fan only to see that he too was also in a state of panic, thus increasing my state of panic.  I then went to the HR woman who is also a huge soccer fan and she was also dumbfounded by the fact that she could not get on ESPN3.

Soon though, we found the univision live feed and even though we had missed the 1st five minutes of the game, we all settled in to our seats, reassured that we would see our boys come through.  While watching Greece has been a solitary event for me which I would then discuss with my old man over the phone since he is now in Greece, watching America has brought me the satisfaction of sharing my  frustrations and joys with many others.

So yesterday morning, buoyed by the fact that we had overcome our momentary panic, all three of us, me, the HR woman and the tech guy all watched together around my computer witnessing chance after chance slip by the U.S.  Soon our moans and groans at each missed opportunity drew the attention of other teachers passing by and a small crown began to develop.

We watched the rest of the 1st half and entered the 2nd half disappointed that Altidore had missed the open net and that the refs had screwed us out of another goal on that terrible off-sides call in the 20th minute.

Then our end of the year staff meeting began at 11am.  Staff meetings usually occur in my room since I have the biggest classroom in the school which allows the entire staff to meet comfortably. Initially, the large crowd gathering around my desk made me feel a little apprehensive since I thought that they may blow my cover as I fully intended to watch the game during the staff meeting without sound until the end.

As more teachers filed into the room, a larger semi-circle gathered around my computer until nearly half the teachers were crowded around my desk watching the game while occasionally casting glances at the principal to make sure she thought we were paying attention.

More opportunities were missed and anxiety built on our faces as we slapped each other on the back in frustration or threw our hands up in despair as more great opportunities to score passed us by.

Finally, the heroic moment where Donovan found the back of the net on a great play which started with Tim Howard’s amazing throw.

We all cheered, blowing our cover, but letting everyone else in the room know that the U.S. prevailed.  Most teachers acknowledged our excitement and some applause ensued.

The principal, apparently not mad, calmed things down and we all started to pay attention to what she was saying for the 1st time.

And with that, we breathed a sigh of relief and reveled in that uniquely high feeling only great moments in sports can bring.

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Two days ago, Greece was playing for a draw against Argentina.  Or better yet, they were playing for a 1-0 win and if Giorgos Samaras’ shot early in the 2nd half had gone in, this post and my life at this point may have been entirely different.

Argentina is a much more skilled team than Greece and is much deeper, but if it had not been for a lucky goal in the 77th minute for Argentina – lucky in the sense that the goal-scorer was fed the ball by an inadvertent hand ball in the box which went undetected – Greece may have gotten its tie. Of course, Nigeria did not win so it would have still been for naught.

Greece’s strong defense, led by the excellent play of Sokratis Papastathopoulos, was able to neutralize Messi for the most part, albeit we got lucky when one of his shots beat Tzorvas and hit the post. By the way, some of the Greeks, Papastathopoulos among them, chose to put their first names on their jerseys rather than their very long last names.  I’m sure many non-Greeks did not pick up on this, but just in case you were wondering as you were watching the game, Sokratis is not a last name.

Things got the bleak as the 2nd half progressed when several key players got hurt, including Karagounis and Katsouranis which prevented Gekas and Salpingidis from being substituted to add an offensive punch.

Needless to say, me and my old man were disappointed as was all of Greece, but if we soak in the big picture, we can say that Greece scored its 1st World Cup goal and won its 1st World Cup game.  I believe our team has the skill to play a variety of ways and we have attacking players that hopefully will lead to the implementation of a more aggressive style in the future as we get ready for the Euro 2012.

I think Greece is the equal of Nigeria and South Korea and if we had tied that 1st game against the Koreans, maybe we would still be playing today.

Update:  My old man is reporting from Greece that Otto has voluntarily stepped down as coach of the national team.  Apparently, he had informed the Greek soccer federation of his intentions before the World Cup.  He will be replaced by Fernando Santos, a Portuguese who has coached club teams in Greece before – specifically PAOK and AEK – my old man’ s team.

Let’s see what changes this move brings for Greek soccer down the road.

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