Oh man, the Lakers are so screwed
If you hate the Los Angeles Lakers, this is a hilarious time to be alive.
Here's the very brief nuts-and-bolts recap of what's gone down over the last week: Magic Johnson left abruptly as president of basketball operations, stunning everyone, Lakers owner Jeannie Buss gave Kobe Bryant's former agent and current GM Rob Pelinka power over the coaching search, they blew their negotiations with Tyronn Lue (who wanted five years and the right to pick his own assistants, which is eminently reasonable), lost their no. 2 choice, and then hired former Pacers and Magic coach Frank Vogel, who has himself been kinda mediocre, and immediately hired Jason Kidd as an assistant to signal to Vogel and the entire world that the minute the head coach screws up, there's somebody looming over his shoulder to snatch his job away. Fun! And all of this with a star in LeBron James who has repeatedly tried to undermine coaches he didn't like, sometimes successfully (David Blatt), and sometimes not (Erik Spoelstra), but who in Blatt's particular case basically sabotaged him because he liked a former player serving as an assistant (Tyronn Lue) better. Oh, and guess who LeBron likes? It's Jason Kidd! A lot!
Now, look...the Lakers have a nice chunk of cap space, and there's every chance they could come away with a very good free agent this summer. Maybe they'll even trade for Anthony Davis! Maybe they'll somehow get Kevin Durant! (Note: They won't.)
It doesn't matter—they're screwed. Frank Vogel, above all, is screwed. The fact that he couldn't pick his own assistants, which was apparently one of Pelinka's demands, means that he's basically starting his Lakers career with a sword hanging over his head and a star player who loves dropping swords. He is absolutely doomed, and the ability to spin a basketball while simultaneously brushing his teeth won't help...
...although that's pretty cool.
All of this, in the end, is down to shoddy management. As Bill Plaschke wrote in a scathing column, "controlling owner Jeanie Buss’ crew has once again amazed and confused." She is apparently taking advice from Phil Jackson, Kurt Rambis, Kurt Rambis' wife Linda, and even Magic Johnson. And in the end, as Plaschke notes, neither coach is very good! Not Vogel, who was, to be fair, solid with the Pacers before tanking with the Magic, and not Kidd, who could barely hit .500 with Giannis Antetokounmpo just last year in Milwaukee, coaching more or less the same team that won the east and might win a title this year.
All of which is to say, rejoice, Lakers haters. LeBron or no LeBron, this is your time, because the team you loathe can't stop shooting itself in the foot.
The "I'm Not Dead Yet, M*$&%*#$*$" Performance of the Week: Steph Curry
When I wrote two weeks ago that, title or no title, this year might represent the sunset of the Golden State Warriors as basketball deities, I had a litany of reasons—injuries to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, impending free agency for Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, and nothing but rampant uncertainty with Boogie Cousins. What I didn't think about, because it wasn't an issue, was another permutation: An injury to Kevin Durant.
But that's exactly what happened in Game 5 against the Houston Rockets, when Durant suffered a right calf strain that knocked him out of the series. The Warriors won that game, but were heading into Houston with just a 3-2 edge, and it looked extremely likely that they would have to fight out a Game Seven at home just to advance—there seemed to be no way they could win Game Six in Houston.
Ohhhhh, but there was a way. And the way was a magical spritely killer elf named Steph Curry. Watch what he did in the second half, after scoring exactly zero points in the first two quarters:
That's 10 points in the third, and 23 points in the fourth in what as inarguably the biggest game of his team's season to date, with their top scorer (and probably the best player in the league) unavailable. That is so clutch, and even though the sun is setting, the Warriors are definitively not dead. Steph Curry is not dead. He's so undead, in fact, that he might be an actual basketball zombie.
Fastest American High Schooler Ever of the Week: Matthew Boling
This guy just ran the fastest 100-meter dash in American high school history, beating a record that has stood since 1990. Watch Boling get down the line 10.13 seconds at the Texas state championships:
Later, he finished the night with an insane closing leg in the 4x400, in which he came back from three seconds down to give his team the win. Skip to the 2:25 mark to see his anchor leg:
If you're not sick of seeing him run yet, here's a video from a month ago where he ran a 9.98, the fastest time ever recorded by a prep athlete and only the second sub-10-second dash in high school history. The wind was to heavy that day to count, so it's not technically a record, but still...wow:
For what it's worth, that performance would have gotten him into the final heat at the 2016 Olympics, and he would have finished seventh. Pretty insane for a high school athlete. Matthew Boling, go win yourself a gold medal.
Mission Impossible Athlete of the Week: Stefanos Tsitsipas
Stefanos, your mission is to:
1. Beat Rafael Nadal
2. On red clay.
3. In Spain.
And yet, despite the long odds, he somehow managed to pull it off, even though Rafa absolutely destroyed him on the hard courts in Australia just a few months ago. This was a stunner at the Madrid Open, and it came virtue of points like these, where Tsitsipas stood toe-to-toe with the GOAT and somehow managed to beat him at his own game:
This almost certainly means Tsitsipas is poised to become the clear-cut heavyweight of the next generation, and it might signal a changing of the tides for Nadal, too. This just isn't the kind of match he loses to anybody but Djokovic or Dominic Thiem on clay, and though he'll have a chance to redeem himself at the French Open—the bigger prize by far—it's looking less and less certain that he can pull a Steph Curry and return to top form at the snap of a finger.