Back from the Memorial Day Weekend break to break down the NBA and NHL finals and the state of both leagues.
Who’s skating their team to the NHL’s final four?
PK Subban hits primetime, the Clippers’ window closes, and the Yankees take care of business in Boston and Baltimore.
Everybody feeling the post holiday weekend blues? Probably right. All those beers and dogs that you chowed down on for three days are sitting pretty well in the cube by now. But it was a good run while it lasted. I’m back for another installment of my midweek column, featuring flaming hot takes from the world of sports. It was a prolonged holiday weekend with plenty of action, so let’s dive right in. Here’s last week’s edition to catch you up as well.
1. If you’re comparing Kevin Durant’s decision to sign with Golden State to Lebron James’ “Decision” to sign with Miami, you’re a moron
I’ll preface this take with this. Kevin Durant is my favorite basketball player on the planet. He has been since he lit it at Texas, and then took over the league at Seattle and Oklahoma City. I also have this strange affinity for expansion and relocated teams. Since I was a little kid I’ve always been drawn to new franchises, adopting them as my second team. Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001? Yup. Four new hockey franchises in the early 2000s? Hell yeah. Oklahoma City Thunder with my favorite player? You’re goddamn right. So now that you know I had a Durant jersey and t-shirt, let’s get into it.
Durant signing with the Warriors in a two-year (NBA contracts are stupid, just call it a one-year deal because he’ll re-evaluate next summer) deal on July 4th stunned the sporting world. He shunned OKC and the Celtics (he was never coming to Boston) for the opportunity to join three of the best basketball players on the planet for a chance to win a title, or multiple titles. He announced his signing on the Players Tribune, and went from there.
Immediately, Twitter nutjobs proclaimed that Durant took the easy way out, and began comparing this free-agent deal to LeBron’s decision to sign with the Heat. That blew my fucking mind. Especially Stephen A. Smith. But I won’t even dignify that blowhard with any more space in this story. After he “threatened” KD earlier this season, he should be removed from talking about him in public. It’s just dumb.
Anyways, there are two major differences between James’ and Durant’s signing. The first one: Durant didn’t leave his hometown, his literal birthplace, that was starved for a title until this year when their “King” came back. He’s leaving a franchise that could never get over the hump. Durant admitted he wants a title, and Golden State gives him the best opportunity to do that. LeBron shunned his city by recruiting Chris Bosh to go to the Heat. Durant left to join Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to get another title in the Bay Area.
The second, and bigger difference between the two signings involves how it was made. LeBron wanted a special on ESPN to announce to the world where he was signing, because he’s the biggest news. Durant wrote a short release on the Players Tribune and sent a corresponding tweet to announce his decision, and went off on his way. One needed a TV special, the other needed three paragraphs and less than 140 characters to announce where he was headed.
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 4, 2016
See the difference? A quick story and a tweet is pretty damn low key. A TV special is about as high-maintenance as you can get. So get over yourself, and praise Durant for pursuing a NBA title. It stings as a Thunder fan, but I’m rooting for him to do well.
Lastly – Golden State over Cleveland in the 2017 NBA Finals.
2. The Montreal Canadiens just made the biggest mistake in franchise history since trading Patrick Roy
Seriously, what in the fuck did the Canadiens do last week by trading PK Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. Beyond the fact that this move makes very little hockey sense – Subban turned 27 in May, Weber will be 31 in August – Montreal has traded away one of the most electrifying players in the NHL for an aging defenseman.
The Canadiens can spin the move as a way to get tougher on the blueline or give coach Michel Therrien a sturdy stay-at-home defenseman who led the NHL in powerplay goals last year, but the eye test doesn’t add up.
Subban is one of a handful of players on Earth who makes hockey fans lift out of their seat whenever he turns around the net with the puck. He’s that kind of special player that captivated Montreal fans, and drove other fans (especially me) nuts. Subban’s antics of diving and embellishing are well documented too, but he was still one of the best players in the game.
And the Canadiens traded him.
Was it because Subban didn’t include Montreal when he donated $10 million to Montreal Children’s Hospital? Was it because he didn’t speak French? Whatever the reason is, the Canadiens made a dumb fucking move that will haunt that franchise for years to come.
Oh, and couple the contract situation of both players – Subban is signed for the next six seasons at $9 million AAV, Weber is signed at $7.85 million for the next DECADE – and you see that it’s a trainwreck. Sacre bleu!
3. The Chicago Cubs are starting their choke a little earlier than I thought
I talked with Brendan about this during last week’s podcast featuring Yankees pre and postgame host Jack Curry, about how the Cubbies are struggling of late. Since starting off the year red hot, Chicago has dropped 10 of its last 15 games, falling to the Mets and Cardinals with relative ease.
Now I’m not saying it’s time to panic in Cubs-land, but what I am saying is that this team that was rolling along through April and May has revealed some holes that need fixing if the team wants to break their century-plus long World Series drought. The bullpen is in need of some late-game help, and the Cubs could use some extra depth off the bench. I have full faith in Theo Epstein to make a trade and improve this team for this season and moving forward.
But, if history tells us anything, it’s that Cubs fans have every reason to be worried about this team moving forward. Last October, the Mets shut down the Cubs with power pitching against the strikeout-heavy Chicago offense. The power-hitting Cubs offense is a juggernaut, but they have struggled against good pitching, which they figure to see in the postseason. Whether Chicago can weather this recent swoon and get back into playing almost .650 baseball is to be determined, but this ongoing decline does serve notice that the Curse of the Billy Goat is still alive and kicking.
4. Iceland’s run in Euro 2016 ended, but it’s the best story of the year
After the tiny island nation shocked the world and reached the final eight of the Euro 2016, Iceland was unceremoniously disposed of by host France 5-2. Their historic run came to an end at the hands of a better team, but what Iceland did over the past three weeks is nothing short of miraculous.
It’s about as close to the “Miracle on Ice” as sports fans have seen, as a country that had little business even being in the tournament reaching the knockout stage was a story that captivated the soccer world. We saw 1/10th of the population invade France for five games, while the other 98% of the country watched the games back home. It’s something that the United States will never see for any sporting event, and I still can’t get over the run Iceland made.
The calls from the Icelandic broadcaster were amazing, and showcased how invested the country was in its soccer program. No other sporting event this calendar year, not even the Olympics, will reach the same level of euphoria that resulted from Iceland’s run in the Euro tournament. Soak it in sports fans, we won’t be here again for a very, very long time.
Also, their postgame ceremony is awesome and intimidating as fuck.
— RÚV Íþróttir (@ruvithrottir) July 4, 2016
5. Coastal Carolina’s run in the College World Series was another feel-good story
The Chanticleers, the fucking Coastal Carolina University Chanticleers, came from behind to win the first National Championship in school history, knocking off the University of Arizona two games to one in the College World Series. CCU, located near Myrtle Beach, SC, barely had a baseball field around 2000. Now, they’re National Champions.
I’ll admit I didn’t watch most of the CWS, but I definitely remember checking in earlier in the tournament when the Chanticleers were down to their final strike in a regional game, and needed to wait overnight through a rain delay before coming back to win the game and continue on their run.
Even though the CWS draws nowhere near the ratings as March Madness and the College Football Playoff, the champions that come out are rarely the teams that enter as the top seeds. It has the most random teams making it into the final part of the tournament, and I think it gives the smaller schools/lower seeds the best chance at taking home the trophy. CCU is a great example of that. Fresno State a couple years ago did the same thing. It’s a fun event, and Coastal Carolina knocked off a traditional power to capture the title. It’s not quite Iceland, but it’s an awesome story nonetheless.
6. PETA protesting and interrupting the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest really pissed me off
I’m fine with protesting a message, but interrupting a hot dog eating contest on July 4th is pretty dumb. Joey Chestnut won the event by eating some insane number of hot dogs, but PETA members jumping on stage to protest God-knows what at the 100th anniversary of the event – when it wasn’t even shown live on TV – is just dumb. I’m all for the ethical treatment of animals too, but this just went above and beyond. Fuck these guys for interrupting a niche event to prove a point.
That’s it for Tim this week. He’ll be back next Wednesday for some more flaming hot takes. Follow Tim on Twitter@culvey13 and Brendan at @MurraySportTalk for more, or to tell me us we’re morons. Either way, have at it.