Sixers-Celtics is basketball's version of good vs. evil
I've gushed about the Sixers on this site before, at length, and I'm not sure how much more my editor would tolerate, so let me sum up in one sentence: Label-defying, possibly historical point guard, excellent and hilarious big man, quirky Europeans, J.J. Redick in his "fully cool" second stage of life, unlikely genius coach who started in Melbourne, and famous, crooked path to being actually good. They're the best. And in the second round of the NBA playoffs, starting Monday night, they're going to meet...
The Boston Celtics.
(Cue Star Wars "Imperial March" music.)
Whether or not you agree that all things related to Boston sports are inherently evil (note: they are), here are seven reasons to specifically hate the 2018 version of the Celtics.
1. Brad Stevens, their boy genius coach, is secretly out to ruin NBA basketball. He forged his success at Butler by bludgeoning his opponents with the specifically NCAA-ish pug-ugly version of the sport. You know what I mean—"physical defense" (read: fouling all the time, but in subtle ways that the refs won't call because the college game is terrible), "working the clock" (holding the ball for 35 seconds), and calling endless timeouts. He almost won two national championships playing this brand of soul-defeating basketball, and is directly responsible for two of the three lowest-scoring national tittle games since...1984. And you better believe he's bringing this junky clog-it-up mentality to the NBA. The Celtics had the fewest PPG allowed in the east this year, and in the last three years under Stevens, the team's pace has gone from third to 12th to 23rd. It's happening, folks—Stevens is trying to steer the entire NBA back into the mid-90s nightmare version of itself, when teams played 64-59 type games and players left every game with bloody noses. We're two years max away from the Celtics winning a title where Marcus Smart gets MVP because he's the best at holding people in a bear-hug when they try to drive. This team is the world's greatest and most imminent threat to enjoyable basketball, and they must be stopped.
2. They took out Giannis, the NBA's most dynamic and fun player, in the last round. Sixers vs. Giannis would have been a blast, but instead we have to sweat through the prospect of our fun NBA uncle getting beat by the sport's equivalent of racist grandpa.
3. Kyrie's hurt. Kyrie Irving is the only semi-respectable reason to root for this team, and he's gone. Don't root for them.
4. Kevin Garnett used to be on this team. Anything is possible...except me forgetting how much Kevin Garnett sucked.
5. The fans. God, the fans. I guarantee you that the minute the Celtics exit the playoffs, the main reaction from Boston fans will be to 1) cite a referee conspiracy, and 2) moan about their unluckly lot in life. They will immediately forget that in the past decade, they have an NBA title, two World Series titles, a Stanley Cup, and approximately 18 Super Bowls. There is no fan base on God's green earth that has enjoyed more success than them, but they're so tied into their identity as long-suffering die-hards that they'll never stop whining—at least when they're not loudly insulting everyone else. (There is an entire genre of "why do people hate us?" threads on their team Reddit, all of which end up with the original poster and the subsequent responders listing the reasons why they're so amazing.) I hate them. Boston sports fandom is an actual disease.
6. Returning to the current team, rooting for the Celtics means rooting for people like Al Horford, who is Draymond Green without any of the charm, and Marcus Smart, a genuinely great defender who fits perfectly into Stevens' scheme because he has the offensive abilities of a toddler trying to grab a greased-up beach ball. Smart in particular was specially designed by the devil to decrease scoring in the NBA.
7. Again, it's Boston. They don't deserve any more success. They don't even know how to handle it. Everyone, including the Celtics' own fan base, is happier when they lose.
In short, please pray for Philadelphia.
The "Great Idea, Very Mixed Bag Execution" of the Week: PGA Tour Walk-Up Music
The weekend groups at the Zurich Classic features walk-up music, as you probably know by now, and it attracted a good deal of hype. (I contributed!) So how did it go? Well, there were some cool moments with the more charismatic, less self-conscious golfers:
And then there was a lot of this. Like, a lot:
Well, that's just sort of awkward. But honestly, a few of the awkward moments were even pretty funny, and when they weren't, it's still interesting to see genuine discomfort on the first tee. In short, I consider walk-up music an enormous success, and I hope they keep forcing it on these guys for the next decade.
The "I Would Watch This Revolutionary New Sport" Idea of the Week: Avoiding the Tag
Here's Lea Wodach of Oklahoma scoring a very unconventional run in NCAA softball:
A closer look:
There's something extremely cool about that, and it turns out this stuff happens kinda frequently, as this compilation video shows:
So the question now is, how do we make an entire sport out of avoiding the tag? Would it just be a bunch of rundown situations, combined with simulated "scoring from second on a single" scenarios? I don't know, and I also don't know if I'd watch a full game, whatever that would be. But I would definitely watch the highlights package, so whoever is in charge of this kind of thing, get it done. And ps, please have a "collision round."
"This is How You Start Your Pro Career" Blue Ribbon of the Week: Nick Kingham
"King Ham," as I'm calling him, is a 26-year-old pitcher for the Pirates, and in his major league debut, he almost threw a perfect game. He finally gave up a hit after 20 batters retired (the most by an MLB player in his debut in the post-1961 expansion era), but he finished the seventh and the Pirates held on to give him his first win. And you know what? He's got some decently nasty stuff:
The Under-Appreciated, Only-for-Real-Fans Pitch of the Week: Brandon Kintzler
I'm a total hipster when it comes to pitching, and the two-seam fastball with a ton of horizontal movement is my band you've probably never heard of. Just watch the under-appreciated beauty at work here:
How are you supposed to hit that???? HOW?! That's better than any vertical-breaking curve, my friends. Although this, from Pablo Sandova (aka Kung Fu Panda) comes pretty close:
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