Richard Jefferson's game winner in game six of the Nets/Raptors series capped off an incredible two-week run for the Arizona men's basketball program. Coming off the heels of Emmanuel Negedu's verbal commitment last week, this week saw another stellar recruit in Brendan Lavender commit to the Wildcats for the 2008 class. The school also announced the hiring of Kevin O'Neill to the coaching staff, reuniting O'Neill to the Arizona bench where he once shared a seat with Wildcats legends such as Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Tom Tolbert and Kenny Lofton. O'Neill brings back with him an NBA pedigree, as well as his tenacious passion for coaching defense – a facet of the game that has plagued Arizona the past two years.
For a guy who loves watching teams play solid defense, I'm tickled pink right now. Last season was frustrating to follow because not only was Arizona losing tight games to quality opponents, they were losing those games because their opponents were tougher mentally and physically on the defensive end. With the addition of O'Neill to the staff and with physical players like Jerryd Bayless, Jamelle Horne and Laval Lucas-Perry coming in the Fall, I fully expect Arizona to get after teams on defense for years to come.
Here's my early, early Pac-10 Stack Ranking for next season: UCLA, Washington State, Arizona, USC, Oregon, Stanford, Washington, Cal, Oregon State and Arizona State. The crazy thing is you could rearrange the top six any way you wanted and it'd be hard to argue with which list is more right. Similar to this season, many, and I mean many, games will go down to the wire and one bounce of the ball either way could mean the difference between a Pac-10 championship and a sixth place finish.
On the lighter side of Arizona sports, my buddy and I met a gal last night in our local watering hole that claimed to play softball for the Wildcats alongside Jenny Finch. I haven't officially confirmed if she really was on the team but she knew a lot about softball, had an athletic build and drank like she graduated from Arizona so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. Here's an actual exchange between her (identity protected) and my friend Brent:
Softballer: That looks good. What are you drinking?
Brent: A Hoegarden.
Softballer: What'd you call me?
For the record, this wheat beer is actually pronounced ‘Who' garden. As Vick the Brick would say, "Who knew?"
Although I was rooting for Jason Terry and the Mavericks, I must admit it was inspiring to watch the Golden State Warriors play with such passion. The whole "We just conquered the world" feel to the post game hysteria – I mean Matt Barnes was carrying around a Warriors flag for Pete's Sake – was a bit much but their actual play on the court was awesome to watch. Again, we're reminded what playing with passion can do for a team. Nowitzki and Company looked like they couldn't get out of there soon enough while Warriors like Baron Davis had the swagger of Mikey McDermot in practically saying, "I can go on busting you up all night.
Speaking of the Warriors was it just me or did Charles Barkley literally look like the sun when donning that yellow shirt on the TNT set? It's just one more reason why he's not only a great ambassador to the game, but a great ambassador to life. His carefree attitude and immunity from the ills of political correctness is refreshing.
Now that the Lakers have been eliminated, it's time for them to eliminate Mitch Kupchak from the GM role. Their management team is sorely lacking in decision making skills and it shouldn't be tolerated any more. During the regular season it was difficult to gauge just how awful Kobe's supporting cast really was. In the playoffs though, the Suns did an outstanding job of running two and three guys at Kobe, forcing him to over dribble and make incredibly difficult shots. To Kobe's credit, he made many of them but the extra effort he had to exert just to get off a shot chipped away at his energy and by the fourth quarter he was oftentimes too gassed to carry the full load. Every single player on that team should be on the trading block except for three: Kobe, Ronnie Turiaf and Luke Walton. I say this because Kobe's Kobe, Turiaf is the next Kurt Rambis, and every team needs a player like Walton who can find teammates with eyes in the back of his head.
How bad is sports talk radio in Los Angeles? AM 1540 used to be Sporting News with syndicated shows such as the Tim Brando Show. The other day I tuned in to see what topics were on the table only to discover that AM 1540 is now a Korean News station. Unbelievable.
I find it disturbing that two academes from well-respected universities spent 13 years studying the foul-calling patterns of NBA officials. It seems like just another way for people to inject racism into an otherwise simple game.
You ever have one of those years where no matter what you do you can only manage your schedule well enough to just barely get everything done in a day before crashing into bed. That's my 2007. As it is, today I'm mixing in sets of push ups and sit ups between paragraphs of the Fizz just to get in some semblance of a workout.
So much for my commando mission into Tucson on November 15th for the Thursday night, ESPN televised conference game against Oregon. It turns out my most cherished childhood friend is getting married in Seattle that weekend. Oh well, this is probably good news for UA anyway as I've not seen Arizona win – in any sport – in person since 2003. That's a now unimpressive 0-11 streak in football and basketball. Actually, my annual road trip to Tucson for a UA football game is slated for New Mexico this season for the simple fact that I absolutely must see an Arizona victory soon for sanity's sake. My buddy Troy, who's in a similar streak of futility, has gone so far as to say that if we lose that weekend to the Lobos he thinks we should bar ourselves from ever again attending a UA game live for the good of the university. I'm not ready to make that kind of commitment yet.
I echo the thoughts of those who believe you must stop what you're doing and get yourself to a television for a deciding Game 7 in any series, regardless of the sport. Something about do or die situations in sports brings out the most extreme results – good or bad. Tonight, the Jazz and Rockets will square off in such a game in a series that has everything from incredible individual performances, outstanding team efforts, heroic shots in the clutch and even a few squabbles that went just far enough to make the point that these teams don't like each other very much.
The one problem with tonight's Game 7 is it's going head to head with the undercard of De La Hoya-Mayweather bout and when the game heads into the fourth quarter the fighters in tonight's main event will probably be strutting their ways into the ring. This, my friends, is the primary reason why some super genius bestowed upon us TiVo.
I want to make it known to those involved that training for the Desert Disaster officially began last night with a three hour short game session. The Di Leva Dynasty must come to an end. It won't be easy though because as long as Red's draining 50-foot putts for them, they're all but unstoppable.
Speaking of unstoppable, I fully expect Steve Nash to win his third straight MVP award. If he does, he'll join an elite group of NBA legends who've won the award three consecutive times. The list includes Bill Russell (1960-63'), Wilt Chamberlain (1965-68'), and Larry Bird (1983-86'). To think that Nash is now a shoe in for the Hall of Fame when five years ago you would've bet your life that such a thing was impossible is simply amazing.
Again, the story of Nash demonstrates what you can achieve if you pursue life with passion. Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, during Kevin O'Neill's press conference. Like I said before, it's good to be a Wildcat this week.
Bear Down, Arizona!