This is the very first edition of my new weekly column that tackles all sorts of topics in the sports world today. I have opinions on all different kinds of events or sports that are going, so the new weekly column called “Dorsey’s Dugout” is where you can find my latest take on any hot topic.
There has been so much going on lately, including two of the big four sports seasons concluded with another major sporting event that comes around once every four years. So much to write about so now let the first edition of the new column kick off starting with the NBA Finals reflection.
The Spurs-Heat rematch was what everyone wanted to see after the Heat miraculously came back in game six and won the series in seven games last season. It was their second championship in a row and Miami looked like the favorite to repeat. Despite being the “2-seed” in the East, everyone knew who the beast from the East truly was and were ready to see if they could three-peat against the team with the top record in the NBA during the regular season.
Last year’s finals was one to never forget with so much going on, including Danny Green’s historic three point shooting performance throughout the series and Ray Allen’s season saving three pointer from the corner. There was a bad taste that resonated with the Spurs after the loss and Tim Duncan made no secret of that before the rematch began.
Once the first two games in San Antonio came to a close with the series tied at one heading to Miami for another two games, I thought the Heat were in full control and ready to run away with the third trophy in four years. Lesson learned here, never underestimate the power of revenge.
San Antonio looked like a different team when they hit the floor in south beach. Greg Popovich outcoached Erik Spoelstra for the remaining duration of the series and fundamental basketball was at its absolute peak of excellence.
Throughout the regular season, many fans of the NBA always made the comment about how boring the Spurs were to watch. They do not have an explosive player like a LeBron James and their style of play is not all up and down the floor with flash, but this series was a display of excellent basketball all around. It was not just one player trying to get it done; it was a team effort all around.
If I were a basketball coach trying to teach the game, I would make my team watch the Spurs play from games three through five. The way the ball was moved around unselfishly and how every teammate was willing to make that extra pass, it may have been boring for some who watch the NBA, but I found it to be a beautiful display of basketball.
The Finals were won due to basketball being played fundamentally spectacular led by the winningest trio in NBA postseason history. Duncan now has his fifth ring and solidified his place in basketball history once again. In my eyes, he is the greatest power forward of all time.
How sweet was this victory for Manu Ginobli? Manu was one of the scapegoats in last year’s Finals due to his poor play, but this year was a different story. Manu was just being Manu scoring over double-digit points in four of the five games.
There are plenty of support players that surround the long-tenured trio such as Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter and Patty Mills. There is not a player outside of that trio that had more of an impact on the series than Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
It was remarkable what the 22 year old out of San Diego State accomplished this post-season. For Leonard to be that young and not full of experience in the NBA with the responsibility of guarding LeBron James one on one, it was astonishing.
When the series was tied at one, coach Popovich made it known they needed more from Leonard to take the next step in the series. With a combined 18 points in the first two games, Kawhi answered his coach’s request with three straight 20+ point performances, including a 29 point-performance in game three. Once Leonard took his game to the next level, the Heat were unable to catch up.
What came as the biggest surprise from this series besides the rise of Kawhi Leonard was how lopsided the Finals were. After a tremendous finish last season, this year could not have been more of a blowout unless Miami never captured game two.
No one could have seen a 4-1 Spurs win before the Finals began, it would have almost been deemed impossible. What we learned most from this series going forward is “teams” win championships and the Heat were not a good enough team throughout the lineup.
The Spurs starters were clicking on all cylinders and the bench came out providing a spark. On the other side of the floor, some of the Heat starters were inconsistent and struggling.
So now the off-season begins in the NBA and there are many storylines that will unfold within the next few months. Will the Spurs veterans call it a career riding out on top of the world or come back for more? Will LeBron James opt out and force us to watch another national televised “Decision” to see where he ends up? My thoughts on the James off-season will be coming later in another column. For now, the Spurs are the champions of the NBA. They are the best overall team in every possible aspect and deserved it this season.
Stanley Cup Playoffs
The NBA Finals was not the only championship series that took place during the beginning portion of the summer time. The Stanley Cup was the other major series that went on during the nights the NBA had off.
The Stanley Cup playoffs are the cream of the crop when it comes to post-season play in professional sports. There is absolutely no other major sport that can compare to what playoff hockey provides throughout its entirety.
The best way to sum up the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the following phrase that I continuously say to those who aren’t the biggest of hockey fans. It is the best playoffs in sports, playing for the best trophy in sports and commentated by the best in all of sports.
It takes so much to win the Stanley Cup and the trophy itself is a trophy unlike any other in sports. Lord Stanley continues to grow in size each season as more teams and players names are inscribed onto the trophy after each season. As for the final part of the phrase in regards to the commentating, there is nothing better in viewing sports than listening to Mike “Doc” Emrick commentate a hockey game.
Doc Emrick is a legend in the commentating world and listening to him work throughout the playoffs is more than a gift. The enthusiasm and excitement he brings to the network every night is truly spectacular. When one team in a game is down one goal with an empty net and down to its last breath, Doc Emrick calling the last two minutes or so of a game sounds similar to a horse race. It is absolutely gripping and consistently has the fans on the edge of their seats in their living rooms.
Now for the Stanley Cup playoffs that took place just recently, the team that was handed Lord Stanley on their home ice, goes down in the history books. The 2014 Los Angeles Kings are a historic hockey team that displayed resiliency that I have never seen out of a team in maybe all of sports in my short lifetime.
The Kings were 4-1 losers to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals last season, so they had aspirations of getting back to that position to avenge their loss. The Kings hit a brick wall during the first round against one of their fiercest rivals.
Los Angeles was dead in the water round one to the San Jose Sharks, as they were down three games to none. After a game three loss in overtime on their home ice, the Kings were on the verge of getting swept. It was a devastating loss and their leader in goal Jonathan Quick had given up 17 goals in three games.
A moment that will forever stand out in the Kings history is Quick acknowledging his teammates on the ice telling them he will play better and everything will be ok. He was the last man off the ice for the Kings, which is unusual for a goaltender.
After giving up 17 goals in his first three games, Quick only gave up five in the next four, which gave the Kings a golden chance to recapture the series. Jonathan Quick looked like the same goaltender that won the Conn Smythe in 2012.
The rest of the team did its part and came back from a three-game deficit to win the series in game seven. The Kings became only the fourth team in the history of hockey to come back from a 3-0 deficit and win a series. This is just the first bit of history that the Kings made throughout the playoffs.
After a first series that had the Kings fans sitting uncomfortably, the second series was another roller-coaster ride. Round two Los Angeles faced their other California rival, Anaheim. It was the first time that these two had ever met in the playoffs ever.
The Kings won the first two games on the road, but then allowed the Ducks to steal both games at home. The series was at 2 all when they went back to Anaheim for game five. The Ducks won game five and the Kings went back home for game six on the verge of elimination.
Los Angeles was once again in a situation with their backs against the wall, but they did not let the pressure get to them. They went on to win the next two games to advance to the Western Conference finals. After just the first two series, the Kings were 6-0 when facing elimination. A team that kept its composure no matter the circumstance, had its chance at sweet revenge the next round against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks won Lord Stanley the season before and were coming into the Western conference finals with a bit more rest than the Kings. Los Angeles had their Cup hopes crushed by Chicago last season, so they wanted to return the favor.
A team that had been battle tested and always climbing their way back into series’ consistently, the Kings fought their way for a 3-1 lead over Chicago. The Kings had always had their backs against the wall, but now were in full control. They had their chances to move on, but were unable to capitalize on the golden opportunity.
Chicago had tied up the series at three a piece and had a chance to move on to the finals for a second straight season. LA was once again in a familiar situation, on the brink of elimination despite the 3-1 lead they had. Game seven of these conference finals was as good as it gets in hockey.
LA went into the third period down one goal and looked as if Chicago was on their way to another Finals appearance. With just over seven minutes left in the third frame, Marian Gaborik scored on a rebound to even the game up at four. With the game tied at four and all sixty minutes had passed, an overtime period was needed to conclude the western conference finals.
The last time a conference final needed an overtime period to decide a game seven was twenty years ago when the Rangers eliminated the New Jersey Devils. It did not take long for the series to end as Alec Martinez threw a puck to the net with traffic in front. The puck went over and in behind Corey Crawford to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup.
The Stanley Cup Finals had a similar 4-1 series victory that the NBA Finals presented us with, but the Cup finals were not lopsided like the NBA Finals was. Three out of the five games featured overtime periods, two of which were double overtimes. The Stanley cup playoffs were hard fought, but the team that deserved it the most ended up being the last team standing on the ice.
Alec Martinez scored the game winning goal that sent the Kings to the Stanley Cup and it was Martinez who ended the long journey at home in double overtime. Game five was as intense of a hockey game as there could have been with amazing performances between the pipes from both Lundqvist and Quick.
The Los Angeles Kings won on home ice and the ride was one of the most historic runs I have ever witnessed in sports. Some of the marks that the Kings made in the history book are the following: Fourth team to ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, first team to ever win three game sevens on the road on the way to a Stanley Cup, their 26th game played in one post-season ties for the most ever and their 64 playoff games played in last three seasons is an NHL record.
Watching the Kings for the duration of this past playoff run was a historic portrayal of resiliency. A team that consistently had their back against the wall with deficits in series leads and in games never quit and overcame those deficits.
Two Stanley Cup titles in the past three years begins to raise the constant discussions on whether they are on the verge of being an NHL dynasty. They are close to doing so, but will need to capture another title. For this team, winning another Cup is not too far fetched.
They have the best goalie in the world with Jonathan Quick, the best defenseman in Drew Doughty and they are deep within the corps of their forwards. The acquisition of Marian Gaborik sparked the Kings run this post-season, as he led everyone in the playoffs in goals. What an acquisition that was at the deadline.
The resiliency that was on display for the roller-coaster ride that was the Los Angeles Kings proves that there is nothing in the same league as playoff hockey. It is the hardest fought journey for the most storied trophy in sports with the top guy in the business calling the dramatic finish. I cannot wait until hockey is back for the next season. This past year was an amazing portrayal of how dramatic the Stanley Cup playoffs are year in and year out.
The Rest of the Sports World
With the NBA and NHL seasons wrapped up, there is still plenty going on in sports. The World Cup is in full blast, the NFL mini camps are about finished and the off-seasons are ahead for the other major sports. Here are some of the topics I would like to cover and my thoughts on each.
USA over Ghana
What a game it was this past Monday when the American squad finally captured three points over the arch rival Ghana. Clint Dempsey is the face of USA soccer now that Donovan was not brought back on the team and Dempsey got the nation going from the get go.
Dempsey scored just over thirty seconds into the match giving USA the one goal lead. It was an inbounds play from the sidelines and could it have been a more pretty display of futbol?
Great inbound pass, touch pass to Dempsey and an incredible individual effort the finish the play. It got the nation rocking from the start and the rest of the game had the Americans on the edge of their seat.
Ghana tied the game up near the matches end, but that was long overdue. They had dominated the game as USA just sat back and played a defensive style of game. Klinsmann’s crew failed to establish possession in the offensive side of the field consistently throughout the match and it led to a plethora of chances for Ghana.
I wrote a major piece above talking about resiliency in regards to the Kings, but the Americans had their own version of it. After giving up a goal that you could feel the devastation countrywide, USA responded with a converted corner to win the match.
Coach Klinsmann got a major win to start off the World Cup for team USA and it is a step in the right direction if they hope to make it out of the group of death. I had been on the record for bashing Klinsmann due to some off the wall comments he has made leading up to the games in Brazil, but he did an excellent job game one.
Team USA’s next match is this Sunday against Portugal. Portugal is desperate as they lost in their first game to Germany, so the Americans are going to need to bring their best effort Sunday. If they play the same way they did against Ghana, they will be wiped off the field.
NBA Draft Chatter
Joel Embiid, arguably the top talent in the NBA Draft, suffered a foot fracture and will be undergoing surgery in the near future. This injury puts the draft in a frenzy now just six days away from the night the first card is drawn.
Before the foot injury, I would say that Embiid is the best player in this draft. His potential is through the roof, especially if you watched him play at Kansas. From his first game as a Jayhawk to his last, his improvement on the floor is a worlds of difference.
He has so much room to grow as a player still, it is potentially scary how great he could be. His back injury was a concern and now the concerns grow with the foot fracture.
If I am a GM in the top five, I cannot risk taking a chance on Embiid despite the potential. His injury problems scare me away and we have seen this same theme so many times in the draft. As a Jayhawk fan, I have strong opinions on the two stars that are in this draft.
Andrew Wiggins is perceived as the man to get this year, but I am not fully on his bandwagon. Its not because he did not live up to the hype he was given during the pre-season because that was astronomical. It is because what I saw on the hardwood floor.
Wiggins has serious potential just like Embiid in some ways because Wiggin’s athleticism is top tier. When it comes to actual basketball on the floor, I saw flaws on a consistent basis.
The way teams found a way to slow down Wiggins during the season was going to a zone defense. It prevented him from using his stellar athleticism to attack the paint and get to the rim. It forced him into becoming a jump shooter and a three-point shooter. Wiggins struggled when he was forced to take jump shots because he could never get into rhythm.
Even when Wiggins got to the rim, he struggled to finish good opportunities. Where Andrew succeeded throughout his freshman year was on the defensive end. He is a good defender one on one and is a great rebounder. He often used his rebounding ability to finish second chance opportunities in the paint.
Wiggins is still extremely young and has plenty of time to grow, but I do not take him at one. I would take Parker with the first selection. The perfect situation in my eyes for Wiggins is at the third overall selection with the Sixers.
This concludes my first edition of Dorsey’s Dugout. It is my new weekly column that brings you into my corner and allows me to give out all my opinions on anything going on in sports. There is still plenty to cover going forward and will be back next week with still more to write about. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back next week.