Monday, June 24, 2013

Studs and Duds: A Wimbledon Cat Fight

By Jeremy Conlin and Joe Parello

Studs and Duds is a weekly feature on Suite Sports. Who had a good week? Who had a bad week?


Chris "Birdman" Andersen and Shane Battier

Obviously, LeBron James was the biggest key to Miami's Game 7 victory over San Antonio, but these two guys were huge as well. In fact, the Heat outscored the Spurs by 12 with Battier on the floor and by 11 when The Birdman checked in. That's even better than the impressive +8 the Heat were with LeBron in the game.

Battier's 6-8 from three-point range caught everyone's eye, but The Birdman helped wake Miami up when he checked in midway through the first quarter. With the Heat trailing 15-10 and looking sluggish, Anderson came in and upped the intensity on the defensive end.

The first thing he did was throw a forearm shiver to whichever player he was matched up with on both ends. He then bellied up Tim Duncan, set a series of hard screens, and hit the offensive glass for a pair of second chance Heat buckets.

In fact, the only problem with Andersen's night was his lack of minutes. The Bird Man only played 19 minutes in Game 7, tied for 7th on the team. And, non-effective play and foul trouble from Udonis Haslem may be the only reason he played that much.


Dwyane Wade's Knees

Wade's leg joints held up well enough for him to score 23 points on 52 percent shooting to go along with 10 rebounds in Thursday's Game 7, a performance strong enough that Miami won the game and, three years from now, most people will forget that he was an unmitigated disaster for the majority of the postseason up until that point. From the start of the playoffs through Game 3 of the Finals, Wade was averaging 14 points on 44 percent shooting and generally sucking in all aspects of the game.

From Game 4 on, Wade scored 23.5 points per game on 49 percent shooting and his turnover rate dropped precipitously. He came up huge in Miami's two biggest games of the series (Game 4 and Game 7) and salvaged his postseason. If Miami had lost the series, LeBron would have been the popular scapegoat. But among people who care more about things like reality and accuracy and context, Wade would have gotten burned at the stake.


Patrick Kane

Now look, Patrick Kane didn't make it very far in our March Man Crushes bracket (Losing to Justin Bieber) because, well, we just don't think hockey players are that cool. But, the rebellious badass did put his team just a game away from another Stanley Cup championship with his game five winning goal.

Oh yeah, and need I remind you he once beat up a cab driver over $1.20 in change.



Hey, it's kind of exciting, ain't it?

A triple-overtime thriller in Game 1, another overtime in Game 2, Tukka Rask standing on his head for a shutout in Game 3, a sudden explosion of offense (and more overtime!) in Game 4, and Corey Crawford returning the head-standing favor in Game 5. For someone that watched about 10 minutes total of regular season hockey (not because I don't like it, with the amount of basketball I watch I just don't have enough hours in the day), the NHL Playoffs and the Stanley Cup Finals have been GREAT.


Doc Rivers

Some guys have all the luck. Doc not only got to coach Boston's Big Three to a championship and two finals appearances, but it now appears he's going to get out of dodge before the rebuilding project begins.

Several outlets are reporting that the Celtics are agreeing to release Rivers from the remaining 3-years and  $21 million of his deal so he can sign with the Clippers for the same terms. All this in exchange for a first-round pick.

Who knows if Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will join him since David Stern has expressed displeasure with approving a trade for either player, lest there be the appearance that the two deals are related. It is flat-out stated in the new CBA that you can't trade for a coach, and a trade swapping up-and-coming DeAndre Jordan for the past-his-prime Garnett would, in reality, be Jordan for Garnett and Rivers.

Garnett and Pierce or not, Rivers will get to coach a contender next year with arguably the world's best point guard in Chris Paul and an athletic freak in Blake Griffin.

I mean, this team did finish 4th in the West with Vinny Del Negro, so imagine what a good coach can do.


Kawhi Leonard

Really though, he's 21 years old, and he just averaged a 14/11 in the NBA Finals to go along with 51 percent shooting and, for the most part, spectacular defense on LeBron James, only the best basketball player on the planet (with mounting evidence that maybe, just maybe, he's the best player in recorded history). Not to mention the fact that his name lends itself to a whole plethora of terrible/amazing puns.

Kawhi so serious? The boy who Kawhi'd wolf. The Bridge Over The River Kawhi. Kawhi Me A River(walk?).

You get the idea.



Heat (and Heat fan) Haters

Man, it was a regular haters ball during the 2013 Finals. Haters were ready to break up Miami's Big Three after Game 3, and when thousands of Miami fans hit the exits as the Heat faced a less than 1% win probability, everyone screamed about how terrible fans in South Florida are.

First of all, let's be honest with ourselves. If you were a die-hard fan of a team that was dead in the water, and you were about to watch another team celebrate on your team's home court, you would probably head out too. Add in the fact that everyone outside of your area was rooting for your team to lose, and I think it's pretty much a certainty that the majority of people would try to beat the traffic.

Let's also be honest with the fact that, while South Florida fans certainly aren't the best, the same thing would have happened in pretty much any other city. Sure, great sports towns like Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Green Bay may have had a few more fans stick around, but fans in LA and New York would have been out the doors just as quickly.

All this hating makes for interesting TV, but at the end of the day, there is really nothing left to hate about. The Big Three have multiple titles, validating their formation. LeBron has come up huge in the biggest games, erasing those "LeBron can't win the big one" thoughts, and Heat fans have shown up and screamed their lungs out when the team is competitive.

Deny all these things if you want, just know that you're a hater.


Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams


Just before Wimbledon (The greatest sporting event to watch during breakfast) got going, everyone's second-favorite Russian tennis hottie called out everyone's second-favorite Williams sister.

It all started when Williams made comments about the personal life of a "top-five player who is now in love" in a recent Rolling Stone article. Williams basically said that this player, whom the author assumed was Sharopova, was dating a dirt bag named Grigor Dimitrov (One of Serena's ex-boyfriends, and a splendidly below-average Bulgarian tennis player).

Sharapova responded by saying that if Williams "wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids," Sharapova continued. "Talk about other things, but not draw attention to other things. She has so much in her life, many positives, and I think that's what it should be about."


Anyways, as I said in my Sports Hipster piece, tennis and golf feuds are always delightfully lame. It's kind of sad really. When so many people think of Williams and Sharopova as modern sex symbols, the fact that they are lowering themselves to arguing over each other's love lives is quite pathetic.


The Haters

I mean, really, it bears repeating. It must have been a rough week.


Tiago Splitter

The dude was gearing up for a payday.

He averaged double-digit scoring during the regular season, started 58 games for a team that won 58 games (not the same 58, that would be a record or something), and was having a (mostly) strong postseason, even shooting 68 percent from the floor and playing effective defense in the Western Finals against Memphis.

Then, Miami.

Here are his minutes from the NBA Finals, game-by-game:

24:48, 22:37, 23:49, 13:41 (gulp), 10:03, 8:14 (another gulp), and (brace yourself) 4:17.

His glaring inability to defend in space was his demise, as was his apparent inability to convert at the rim (he was 5-for-12 within three feet in Games 2, 3, and 4).

What may have been a (dumb) $30 million contract from a team desperate for a big man can all but be kissed goodbye. The Spurs may find themselves in an ironic twist of fate; on one hand, they certainly regret that his shortcomings rendered him near-useless in the NBA Finals (possibly costing them the series). But on the other hand, said shortcomings could mean they get to bring him back and a steep discount. We'll have to see how free agency shakes out.


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