Thursday, May 31, 2012

State of Chavez Ravine: How Good Are YOUR...Los Angeles Dodgers?

As we noted in our season preview, any Dodgers fan should have been satisfied with a team who merely competed for 162 games this year, not while jockeying for a playoff spot, but rather in trying to preserve the dignity of a once proud franchise in transition.

Miraculously, here we are on May 31st, at 32-18, the best mark in all of the majors.

Despite a recent slide that's included three straight losses at the hands of a struggling Milwaukee Brewers club, YOUR...Los Angeles Dodgers have embarked on a start that hasn't been seen in the City of Angels since the 1981 championship season. Two months ago, most fans would have been ecstatic with a .500 record and a team that played with hustle and grit. Now looking at the best winning percentage in all of baseball and in a division that's a combined 38 games under .500, the Dodgers are thinking that the NL West crown that was once thought highly improbable, is now strong probability.

So the prevailing question here is: How the hell are they doing this? How is a team that we all had earmarked for 81 victories on pace for 105 wins? Que-Ese and I examine the primary reasons why:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Instant Trade Analysis: Anthony Davis to the New Orleans Hornets

David Stern gets: Tom Benson to buy the New Orleans Hornets from the NBA

New Orleans Hornets get: PF Anthony Davis via the number one pick in the 2012 NBA Draft

That wasn't a joke, but not in the way you think.

2012 Stanley Cup Preview

The Stanley Cup matchup couldn't have worked out better for THE GREAT MAMBINO. Our resident NHL expert, Pucklius, will be on the precipice of a heart attack, as he roots for Devils legend Martin Brodeur to hoist the trophy one more time. Que-Ese, TGM's favorite utilityman and promoter-extraordinaire, is on the other side, cheering for the Kings of the city of angels.

We've been giving you previews all along the way as these teams have fought through battle after battle just to have their names etched next to Lord Stanley. But for this final round, I asked Puck and Que one question:

Who has the better playoff atmosphere?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Monday Night RAW Recap: Big Show's Time to Shine

Location: New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, LA
Announcers: Jerry “The King” Lawler, Michael Cole

9:05 and Raw finally started. How long are the video packages going to be when Raw becomes 3 hours?

Big Show promo

Ten minute promo with the Big Show saying that no one is in his league. Let's just say that I don’t think anyone was surprised at the Big Show’s exclusion on the WWE's Top 25 Masters of the Mic list. After lots of droning and whining, his only valid point was that immediately after his firing, Brodus Clay came down and started dancing like nothing had happened. Absolutely brutal opening to Raw, but it did help set the tone for Unstoppable Big Show.

Generationally Defective: Why We Hate LeBron and Melo, but Admire Rose and Durant

LeBron James is a coward. The self-anointed Chosen One has led a NBA career with varying highs and lows, astounding us along the way with a dazzling combination of size, speed, grace and strength. Never before had we ever seen an athlete that drew comparisons to a Transformer; a burning locomotive train that could change into a blackbird jet at any given moment. LeBron's promise to his consumers has been that indeed, he would be the one to bring basketball to heights never before seen - we are all witnesses, afterall. However, in a folly of hubris fit only for a King, James has yet to deliver on his various pledges; while he has amazed, he has yet to conquer. The progenitor of the South Beach Theory, a situation where in trying to add value to your own personal "brand", you actually diminish it,  LeBron has somehow become the most despised player in the league. We should be thankful that he spends his time bestowing his gifts and otherworldly play upon us, and yet, we've come to resent the cowardice from a man who has shown a reluctance to walk the self-instituted path we've lined the streets of, waiting for ascendance. LeBron James was drafted in 2003.

Monday, May 28, 2012

MAMBINO's Eastern Conference Finals Preview

The Miami Heat versus the Boston Celtics. As soon as Derrick Rose got hurt five weeks ago, this is the matchup we all saw coming. And it is going to get messy.
Even in missing starting power forward Chris Bosh and no one on the Miami roster peaking right now save for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, essentially every person whose opinion you care about is picking the Heat to win this series. I suppose this more than anything is a testament to the greatness of South Beach's best two players, who are playing at an otherwordly level right now.

Barring an unforseen injury to the Heat's two remaining All-Stars, this series will be a romp. In our series preview, we'll let you know why, but also, what the hell Boston would have to do to squeak out the massive upset. The King, our resident Celtics fan, will try to decode a method to the madness that would be a Boston series win. Here we go:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

MAMBINO's Western Conference Finals Preview

Can Kawahi contain KD?
Charles Barkley has boldly proclaimed that these two teams left are the best two teams in the NBA. It's hard to disagree.

The San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder will begin the Western Conference Finals on Sunday, with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line. The two teams have gone 16-1 combined so far in the playoffs, with the Spurs on a 18 game winning streak and the Thunder only losing one postseason contest to a squeaker last Friday with the Lakers. No other teams are playing as well as these two squads right now, so the consesus should be, like Chuck says, that whoever wins this matchup is the presumptive NBA champion. Maybe.

We're of two minds on this at MAMBINO HQ, but we've got not only our consensus decision here, but also spicy little alternative for you out there. Check it!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Watching YOUR...Los Angeles Kings: The Power of JUJU

Since the Kings have begun their playoff run, I have contributed to every single game they have won by providing my unique form of juju.

Juju is what I define as the fan's ability to impact games. Active fans of every sport can identify with what I am talking about. That feeling that if you just wear the right clothes and follow the correct routine, you can impact the team in a positive way. You can call it superstition, or stupidity, but you know what I call it.
I have been a believer in the power of juju for years. I started out watching Bruins and Lakers games on TV finding that if I sat in a particular spot on the couch, teams were more likely to win. The science behind these beliefs is inexact but based on personal experience; juju is a very real and powerful tool for any professional sports team.
It may be the longing to belong to a team or the desire to put my own energy into a game, but following the tenants of juju closely makes me feel more engaged with the game on TV and tied to any successes or failures. Just as a good fan should.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

State of the Garden: Knicks to Remove Interim Tag from Woodson

It's been a full 8 days since my last post on The Great Mambino. Some None of you were wondering what the hell I've been doing since last week, so we'll move on from that.

Earlier this week, the outlets reported that The Straight Shot was ready to give interim coach Mike Woodson a permanent position leading YOUR New York Knickerbockers in the 2012-13 NBA season and beyond. After rumors swirled regarding the possible hires of notable names such as Phil Jackson, John Calipari, and more recently, Stan Van Gundy, the Knicks have reportedly decided to reward The Sharpie Goatee with this job.

Was this the right move?

LA Kings Bandwagon Fan Crash Course Educator

As the Lakers unceremoniously went down 3-1 in their eventual loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, I quickly realized that like a lover scorned by a hateful broad, I'd have to find a new steed to hitch my wagons to for a sweet sweet rebound.

Enter YOUR...Los Angeles Kings.

I'm sure I'm not the only one. Los Angeles, like Boston, Philly or Miami, is a frontrunners town. Whichever of our teams that is in the driver's seat, that's the one we'll readily and happily attach our interest to, regardless of whether we've watched a game this season, know the best player's name or hell, even the rules of the sport. This is just how it is. Don't blame me. I didn't found the city.

Fellow Lakers fans (and even some of you Clippers refugees that may have found your way over to this glorious stink-free blog), I realize the spot we're in. You want to keep the adrenaline going by rooting for a team in the playoffs, but yet, you don't know a damn thing about hockey. Or maybe you know a bit, but you've been preoccupied with checking out Kenneth Fareid's offensive rebound rate and the progress of the Kings wasn't on the front burner. Look, I get it. That's why we're here.

I've exchanged a series of e-mails with MAMBINO ace hockey writer Pucklius, asking questions inn order that us bandwagon Kings fans might get a crash course in puck education. Let's be honest; at the end of this, no one is going to mistake you for a pedigreed NHL fan born in the swamps of Calgary. However, you MIGHT just learn enough to have a passable conversation about possibly the only champions in LA this June. Onward!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Monday Night Raw Recap: Plot Hole-Mania Runnin' Wild

Location: Richmond, Virginia
Announcers: Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler

In ring segment

Cena comes out and he is not happy. I much prefer serious John Cena to Ace Ventura Cena. The Doctor of Thuganomics grabbed a microphone and Raw opened up with an in-ring promo running down the Big Show. John Laurinaitis came out to the ramp in a Rascal, accompanied by Eve Torres (Serious question, do you think John Cena making out with Eve on Raw a few months back had any impact at all with his divorce?).

John Cena vs The Big Show is announced for the next PPV, No Way Out. John Laurinaitis also announced that the Big Show was hired back last Saturday. And correct me if I’m wrong, but Saturday comes before Sunday....the night of Over the Limit. The same PPV with the main event stipulation stating that anyone who interfered in the match up would be fired. So technically the Big Show was a WWE employee at the time right? All I ask for is a little continuation. Less than 24 hours after the PPV and they’re already butchering storylines. Sweet.

No salute? No sprinting? Yes folks, it's serious @JohnCena#RAWTonight

Lakers Game 5 Recap: The Best Team Won

It just didn't feel right. In trying to distill down my swirling thoughts into a simple reductionist theory that would hopefully quell my aching fanhood, that sentiment kept on rolling around and around in my head. It just didn't feel right.

I've seen champions before and lived in the cities while they happened. I've seen five Lakers title teams, and two in the 2004 and 2007 Boston Red Sox. I've watched intently as teams have broken decades-long curses, and other teams who arose seemingly out of nowhere to take a championship no one thought could be theirs, but in the end was rightfully earned. I know that feeling you get, a sensation similar to a great idea hitting you slowly but deeply. In every championship season I've witnessed, there's a moment when you realize that the team you're watching could take it all. Or maybe more accurately, should take it all.

You see it in their eyes and in their effort. It's present in the teammates on the bench, whether they're in the throes of competition or in the malaise of a practice. It's that undeniable feeling you get that no matter how bad the loss was, or how emphatic the score, that your team can go all the way. The 2012 Los Angeles Lakers couldn't give me that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

WWE Over the Limit PPV Recap

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
Announcers: Michael Cole, Booker T, Jerry Lawler

WWE Tag Team Title Match
Dolph Ziggler/Jack Swagger vs (C)R-Truth/Kofi Kingston
For starters, let me just say that this Raleigh crowd was 100x better than the Greensboro crowd at Raw just two weeks ago. A great crowd can enhance a great show or even carry a poor one. Props to Raleigh for bringing the noise last night and bringing some respect back to North Carolina. 

Great opening choice for the ppv. These men treated us to a ppv quality tag team match that helped remind us that the titles actually meant something once upon a time. I am hoping R-Truth and Kofi Kingston find some fresh blood to have matches with, allowing Ziggler to flourish on his own. He is too talented to be stuck in the tag team scene or managed by Abraham Washington.

Monday, May 21, 2012

NBA's Flopping Superstars: Double Standard or No Standard At All?

The MAMBINO crew (and the general NBA writing populace) has been afire with rage at the egregious and seemingly unending flopping going on in these playoffs. LeBron, Wade, Chris Paul, James Harden and the like have been throwing their bodies around the court as if they got hit by a Rhinoceros rather than a hard screen or an errant forearm from a shooter. Commissioner David Stern has taken notice and there are whispers that a "flopping" committee will be instituted to stop our favorite NBA-ers from being thespians rather than the hard-nosed ballers of yesteryear. 

But the controversy got us thinking, do the NBA superstars get away with flopping because the refs let them operate under a completely different set of rules? Or perhaps everyone does this, but maybe we're just a little too sensitive to our best and brightest flailing about the court? The CDP and I discuss.

The CDP: There's no doubt that the NBA disciplinary committee has had a pretty tough time keeping order in the L this year, with a rash of hard fouls on a mid-air Blake Griffin and lots of tough fouls to officiate. As a Lakers fan, my season was bookended with big Lakers suspensions by stupid fouls from our frontcourt: Bynum's assassination attempt on JJ Barea and Metta World Peace's elbow to the skull of James Harden. At the moment, though, the controversy is all about the Heat. On one hand, you have to admire a team like the Heat's ability to get to the line with their explosive athleticism and deft maneuvering into the paint. Sometimes it's hard to do anything else with LeBron and Wade but foul them. Through obscenely bad flops, constant yammering at the refs, and some Academy Award-caliber acting, it seems like this advantage has been contorted into something else entirely. There's a growing sentiment that the Heat are playing by a whole other set of rules. In one short sequence against the Knicks, LeBron flopped against JR Smith before treating us to one of the worst flops I've ever seen. It swung the momentum of the game and was initially called a Flagrant 2 foul before being downgraded to a Flagrant 1. Poor Tyson Chandler is rightfully incredulous, as is the announcing team, prompting Van Gundy to wonder what kind of league the NBA is becoming where this is a flagrant foul.

What do you think? KOBEsh, do you feel like Kobe gets treated the same way?

Kyrie Irving as "Uncle Drew"

Just another reason why Kyrie Irving is one of MAMBINO's favorite NBA rookies, and generally, one of the coolest cats around. Videos like this demonstrate a Superstar-in-training. Dig it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Top 5 Most Devastating Losses of the Kobe Bryant Era of Lakers Basketball

9 unanswered points in two minutes. The Lakers blowing a seemingly insurmountable 7 point lead with 2:07 left in the game. Kobe Bryant resembling a flacid lifeless toy snake rather than the killer Black Mamba we've all come to know, respect, in some situations love, but in most, hate.

Two days later, it still doesn't add up for me. Not in what I saw; I watched every minute of that game. But how did a Lakers team that had complete control over the game's pace for 46 minutes suddenly abdicate the reins over to the Thunder for the final two deciding minutes? The loss still stings, and hopefully it hasn't lingered in the minds of YOUR...Los Angeles Lakers for more than a couple hours the other night.

How do you get over this? How do you shake this feeling of doom? Even a win tonight in Staples Center will still only put the series at a 2-1 Oklahoma City advantage, with the fourth game coming just 24 hours after the third? The answer is that maybe you can't. Maybe this one will stick in our minds for a long time to come, just as we could say about the Lakers if they falter tomorrow night.

Shortly after the conclusion of Game 2, I wrote up a Silver Screen & Roll recap, which I had committed to days earlier. Little did I know that I'd have to write the thing with a rattled brain and a heart in the clutches of two grown basketball players who looks like they lived in Williamsburg. Not too long after I hastily put together my frazzled thoughts, a commenter left a response that Wednesday night was one of the worst Lakers losses he'd seen in 45 years.

Instantly, and even with only 27 years of Lakers fanhood under my belt, I recoiled with rejection and disbelief. That couldn't be true. Could it? I taxed my brain, and when I came to a familiar standstill that I so often encounter when I, you know, think, I turned to my other, more functional and easily edited brain, Wikipedia. After gathering the facts, I replied that this wasn't even in the top 5 losses...of the past 15 years. Instantly I started reeling off game after game, with each playoff disappointment more painful than the last. As the barren, stale hole in my chest became larger and larger, I actually started to feel a small sense of relief. By burning myself longer and deeper with painful memories of past Lakers failures, I actually started to feel better about Game 2. In comparison, this was cake! Sarah Lee confetti cake from an erotic bakery! With a picture of a young Meg Ryan! Sweet!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

State of Laker Nation Playoff Recap: Implosion in the Clutch

           With a loss like this, I’m not sure it’s the details that really need discussing as much as the emotional and psychological impact. The last two minutes are still burned in my brain. As KOBEsh wrote about Game 1, sometimes it’s a lot easier to swallow a big loss than one like this, which was also an amazing opportunity to steal a game on the road. As a result, I have a world class sports hangover this morning, the kind of pain you can’t believe you’re in over sports. I can’t believe how emotionally draining last night’s loss was as a fan and can only begin to imagine what it was like on the plane flight home. Did Kobe let anyone talk or did he mandate a team sulk on the way home?

As painful as this loss was, it wasn't all bad. I have to give Coach Potato Head credit for making adjustments and having his team ready to play last night. And they were great, for a gritty first 46 minutes, where they had a 7 point lead. They won the rebounding battle and played stifling defense, forcing 14 turnovers. Russell Westbrook came back down to earth and James Harden had 5 TOs. Offensively, the Lakers took care of the ball and got to the line. The bigs even showed up and controlled the paint. Bynum had a huge hook shot to extend the lead to 7 with 2:09 to play. Then it all went off the rails and the Lakers imploded in a terrifying fashion. After holding the Thunder to less than 70 points through those 46 minutes, the Lakers coughed up their 7 point lead and let the Thunder voodoo shamans rip our collective heart out. A couple of quick Harden layups, a turnover, and a clutch Durant jumper. All of a sudden we were down and unable to respond. Game over.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Most Clippers-y Clippers Team Ever

Let's go over the laundry list of what the 2011-2012 Los Angeles Clippers accomplished this year:
  • .606: Their best winning percentage ever, years in Buffalo and San Diego included
  • 40 wins: Their 8th highest total ever...even with only a 66-game season
  • 2nd Place in the Pacific Division: Only the 2nd time they've ever finished that high (2006) in LA, and only the third time overall (1974-75)
  • Wins a playoff series for the 3rd time ever
  • Wins their first ever 7 game series
  • Wins a playoff Game 7 for the first time ever
  • 2 NBA All-Stars: Only the second time two players were ever selected to the All-Star team together (1976: Randy Smith & Bob McAdoo in Buffalo)
  • 2 NBA All-Star Starters: The first time any Clipper was selected an All-Star starter, let alone two at the same time
  • Chris Paul on 1st Team All-NBA: This isn't official yet, but I would be incredibly surprised if Chris Paul wasn't the first 1st Teamer since Bob McAdoo in 1976
  • Breaks a 17-game losing streak in San Antonio, dating back to January 31st, 2002
  • Breaks a 16-gamer losing streak in Utah, dating back to January 21st, 2004
In short, this has been the greatest Clippers season in their entire 42 year history, including their brief, but slightly more successful tenures in Buffalo and San Diego. A team who's basketball plans always laid in the future, owner Donald Sterling finally had a squad that was ready for the present. Faced with unprecedented preseason expectations, the Clips in many ways exceeded them. Now merely dark horse pick to make a run to the NBA Finals, at one time many had lofty expectations that this team could be title contenders. They finished the season with 40 wins, good for a .606 winning percentage, slightly better than their 1974-1975 Buffalo Braves antecedents. Within those 40 W's includes two wins that broke gigantic losing streaks in the fortresses of San Antonio and Utah, dating back nearly a decade.

David Wright Pulled in Fear of Retaliation

Last night, YOUR New York Mets were ready to call it a loser. On their way to an 8-0 loss at the hands of the Beer Men of The Good Land, Amazins' reliever D.J. Carrasco gave up a home run to Rickie Weeks. On the first pitch after Weeks had rounded the bases, Carrasco plunked reigning National League Most Valuable Player and object of Mambino disdain, Ryan Braun.

Carrasco was immediately ejected by home plate umpire Gary Darling, and Mets manager Terry Collins wasn't surprised. So what did he do?

When it was Wright's turn to bat in the bottom of the 7th inning, Collins sent no-namer Jordany Valdespin (cool name, bro) to the plate instead of his star 3rd baseman. Wright is to the Mets as Braun is to the Brewers, and coupled with the fact that DW notched 2 of the Metropolitans' 5 hits off of Zack Greinke, Collins knew what was going down.

After the jump, I have power-ranked the participants involved in last night's event.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Monday Night Raw Recap: The Raw Librarian's Debut

Welcome to the first Monday Night Raw recap. Hopefully someone out there is even slightly amused and this will be a recurring feature on The Great Mambino. I want to thank KOBEsh and BockerKnocker for allowing me the opportunity to ramble on about the merits of “Sports Entertainment.”

Some background about me that you should probably know: I used to set a tape in the VCR to record ECW Hardcore TV, Saturday mornings at 3 a.m. on channel 19....that was a very old fashioned statement. So like CM Punk, I too, am a Paul Heyman guy. 

A lot of my views are influenced by the people I have read/currently read. In the past, I've perused Mr. Tito’s Phat Daily Column of LOP on a regular basis until his retirement. (I still like to hear his insight on the current product and follow him on Twitter.) Currently, my jams are The Masked Man of and Brandon Stroud’s Best and Worst of Raw column on With Leather. Both of their work is far more polished, eloquent and succinct than mine will ever be, so if you only have time to read one Raw review, read Stroud’s. If you have time for two, squeeze mine in. 

State of Laker Nation Recap: A Pathetic Lakers Apologist Searching For Logic

If someone were to say, "Hey buddy, "you owe me one million dollars", you'd look at him and laugh, brush it off and move on to more serious conversation. He insists "no, really, you owe me one million dollars. I need it by Tuesday". What do you even do in that situation? You don't have that type of capital and even if you did, would you be able to hand it over like that? It's such a ridiculous situation regarding a unfathomable amount of money that I don't even know that you'd panic. You'd just sit there for a while, not knowing how you even go about wrapping your mind around the matter at hand.

Now, what if you're in that same situation, but you owe someone $900?  You have that money, and now you have to hand that over, maybe in 100 dollar bills. You're freaking out. You're so nervous that you can't tell if you have to pee or vomit. That's a palpable amount you can comprehend, and unfortunately, deal with. Oddly enough, $900 is a much scarier prospect than some abstract concept of owing a million dollars that you surely don't have.

I'm holding on to this very shoddy analogy like a small Asian boy holds on to his teddy bear at night as a 27 year-old living in New York City as I think about last night Lakers/Thunder game, in which YOUR...Oklahoma City Thunder laid a 119-90 shellacking on LA. The Lakers got jumped last night, but in many ways, a 29-point, out of control loss might be slightly easier to digest than a close, 10-point loss with 48 minutes of hustle. To examine, let's go over some numbers for Oklahoma:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Western Conference 2nd Round Preview

The never-ending first round of the NBA playoffs has finally concluded, with both LA teams winning some unbelievably close Game 7's, the Lakers at home and the Clips on the road in Memphis. The matchups are set and to So Cal's chagrin, pretty lopsided in regards to pre-game prognostication. Bummer.

But that's why we're here Mambinites. The MAMBINO roundtable is here once more to give our official prediction, but also why a curveball could be thrown into the works. Read on, friends.

Blood in the Hudson: Rangers vs. Devils

If you grew up in the New York metropolitan area in the 1990s, the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals left a mark on you. It didn't matter if you liked hockey or if you didn't, but the Devils were playing the Rangers, 1940 was emblazoned into your psyche and Mark Messier was busy carving out a place there for himself, too. Of course, if you liked hockey, then it was a horse of a different color entirely. The 1994 Eastern Conference Finals in the NHL were a series with drama that was almost unmatched by any other postseason series in the history of sports. Granted, I have a particular soft spot for both hockey and this series in general, but if you look at the facts -- and we will do that in a moment -- there is no postseason series I have seen in any sport that has proven its equal, though the 2001 World Series comes close.

To wit:

The 1994 season is widely remembered as the campaign in which the Rangers finally broke the curse of 1940, when the team opted to burn its mortgage on Madison Square Garden in the bowl of the Stanley Cup in celebration, thereby desecrating a sacred object and sentencing the team to more than half a century without a championship. Or so the theory goes. While the Rangers' victory over the Devils in that season's Eastern Conference Finals is not forgotten, people often forget that while the Rangers had the second-best record in the NHL that season, the Devils had the second-best just six points behind them. Add into the mix the natural geographic rivalry of two teams that played across the river from one another, as well as a bitter dynamic for New Jersey in which the Devils played consistent ugly duckling to the big, bad Blueshirts -- something that is still the case despite the Devils being the more successful franchise since 1994 by an extremely wide margin -- and what lay ahead was a dream set up to a dream series.
So to recap, this is what we were presented with before that series:

-- The two best teams in the NHL's regular season by the most significant empirical metric
-- A natural geographic rivalry between two teams and fan bases that hate each other
-- A measure of recent history, as the Devils and Rangers had played a bitter seven-game series two years earlier
-- A chance for the Devils to finally crawl out from big brother's shadow
-- A chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final, the most that could possibly be at stake between these two teams given the League's format

Sunday, May 13, 2012

State of Laker Nation Playoff Recap: We Can Finally Exhale

Before the game started, I had goosebumps. You hate being in a Game 7, particularly when you’ve had a chance to avoid it, but it’s a truly special moment in sports. I just wanted to get off to a good start and help the Lakers settle into their game. Being successful in a Game 7 requires managing emotions and playing in rhythm. This is where legacies are created and the palpable weight of history can sometimes suffocate a team.

After it was all over, Lakers 96, Nuggets 87, I could finally exhale. Denver put up a hell of a fight and will be dangerous next year, but there would be no more waking up in the middle of the night thinking, “What if…” Ty Lawson’s Speedy Bunch is gone and hopefully lit a fire for Round 2. Special props to Afflalo, Lawson, and Al Harrington for bringing their A-Game tonight and all series long. Overall, the Lakers exhibited a great team effort tonight, a game to be proud of. Denver never buckled and the Lakers earned every inch. They ground it out as a team, even when the shots weren’t falling.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Eastern Conference 2nd Round Preview

The first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs was...underwhelming to say the least, completely depressing to say the most. Not just in the games themselves, which were just a pitiful affair: 2 series were done in 5 games, while the other two weren't terribly competitive for 6 games.

The second round won't feature All-Stars Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Joe Johnson, and Luol Deng. But as long as this side of the NBA features LeBron James' quest for his first Larry O'Brien trophy, the East will have all the must-see TV you we will need.

State of Laker Nation Playoff Recap: What?

(Seeking solace from one pathetic Lakers apologist to another, The CDP and I exchanged a series of e-mails regarding Denver's laugher over a listless Lakers squad last night. Here's our e-mail exchange, in the form of a game recap)

This kid's Xmas ornament was as useful as Payton in purple and gold.
KOBEsh: There were so many parts of last night's Game 6 that made want to hurl myself out a window and alternately throw my Gary Payton #20 Christmas ornament at the television. What do you think was the most egregious offense made by the Lakers last night?

The CDP: I'm gonna go with Mike Brown and his rotations, which have been a problem all year. Kobe may have been the only guy who showed up, but he was also sick and Brown played him 37 of a possible 42 minutes before sitting the last 6 minutes when the game was out of hand. More than that though, if your team doesn't show up, you have to spice it up. In the third quarter, Pau was absolutely killing us as the Nuggets built a big lead.

Despite Jordan Hill being our most effective big for the series, Brown waited nearly 9 minutes before throwing the Spaniard on the bench. Even the bottomless reserve of energy and hustle that is Josh McRoberts could have mixed things up. To me, it's unclear that Mike Brown has been able to hold his bigs accountable, either through rotation choices or off-court film sessions. I was angry that Pau was bricking jump shots, but the problem with our bigs last night was the story of the series: lackluster or non-existent help defense and marginal effort on the boards.  Considering the context, it's a fair question. Was this 3 point, 3 rebound "performance" Pau's worst game as a Laker?

Josh Beckett makes Red Sox Nation Vomit

Strike a pose you POS!
...and who couldn't be more happy than Yankee fans?

After coming off a season where Boston blew a playoff spot in the final day of the regular season, after we learned that the funky smell coming out of the Red Sox clubhouse was the remnants of fried chicken and beer, and in a week where longtime PA dude Carl Beane passed away, Josh Beckett decided to violently tug on the heartstrings of Massachusetts and beyond.

If you haven't heard, Beckett was pulled from his start last week, with manager Bobby Valentine explaining the move to be a result of "tightness in [Beckett's] lat muscle." The very next day, Beckett was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, as an observer saw him and teammate Clay Butthole shooting the ish on the golf course.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Requiem for Boom Dizzle

It’s hard to describe how deflating it was to watch Baron Davis destroy his knee this week against the Heat. I have been replaying it over and over again in my head over the last few days. Watching him plant his foot and then just collapse. Anyone who saw it knew that it was a major injury immediately, potentially career-ending. Sure enough, news came out that he tore his ACL/MCL along with a partial tear of the patella tendon. He’s 33 and will surely miss at least next season, but a recovery at 34 seems unlikely. If this is it, there is no doubt that Baron, aka Boom Dizzle, BD, and the Original Insane Beard (sorry James Harden), has left an indelible mark on the NBA and the sports world at large.

As an LA native and UCLA fan, I’ve been a huge fan of his for the last 15 years, since the day the young phenom stepped foot in Westwood. In high school, BD was a McDonald’s All-American and Gatorade National Player of the Year who also happened to win the Slam Dunk Contest. To say that he was exciting in college would be a tremendous understatement. Baron Davis was a freak athlete, a dynamic force on the court, and an unbelievably creative playmaker. He possessed an intangible star quality while dominating at UCLA and was one of the best in-game dunkers I’ve ever seen. Despite an ACL injury in college, he was drafted third overall by the Charlotte Hornets, where I continued to follow his career.

Next Stop to Stanley: Kings vs. Coyotes Preview

(Que-Ese is struggling with computer difficulties, so I'm posting on his behalf. Skynet is taking over)

Well folks, here we are. The Kings are who we thought they are and even better than I thought they could ever be against the Blues. Turning in the most impressive playoff series in franchise history, the Kings are playing the best hockey in the NHL right now.

The Blues were supposed to be a team built similarly to the Kings in every way; Strong defense, stronger goal keeping, and timely scoring. And yet, the surge that is Dustin Brown’s epic playoff physicality once again set the tone of a suddenly confident hockey club.

To put it simply, the Kings got Swag.

Knicks Game 5 Recap: Oh Well

The best postseason out of all the major professional team sports is that of the NBA. It may not be as fast-paced as hockey. It may not be as thrilling as football. And it may not be as gut-wrenching as baseball. But basketball is the best merely because the best team advances to the next round 9 times out of 10.

In the NHL and MLB, a team can ride a standing-on-his-head goaltender or two hot starting pitchers to the next round. In the NFL, each round consists of a one-game playoff to determine the "better" team. But on the hardwood, a team cannot advance solely on the shoulders of one or two dudes.

Why else did LeBron take his talents to South Beach? He realized that there is no "i" in team.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The NFL Is Not A Role Model: Musings from a former D-III Lineman

(This is a guest post from friend of MAMBINO Dangerous Dave Hailing from DC by way of LA, he was deeply struck by last's week shocking death of Junior Seau. Below is his debut post. Check it!)

For eight years, I played football.  I was a pretty good high school player and a mediocre Division III defensive lineman. More often than not, I began each play by banging my head against the opponent’s helmet to gain a small advantage by disorienting the opposing offensive lineman. It wasn’t good technique, but then, I wasn’t very good and needed all the help I could get.

This year, my little brother will be a junior in high school this year. He’s a very good defensive lineman and like I was when I played, he is happiest when he makes a big hit. The tackle that your coaches rewound 50 times in film on Monday.  It’s the same play that we see 100 times every Sunday on CBS, FOX and ESPN. It’s the same play that Junior Seau lived to make.

This is why I am worried.

Hide Ya Kids: A Mariano-less World Isn't Safe

I don't go to the Boogie Down often, but when I do, I go to watch YOUR New York Yankees.

Last night, the gloomy, rainy night mimicked my emotions as I entered through baseball's 3-plus year old cathedral for the first time this season. I wasn't going to see the great Mariano Rivera pitch tonight, nor would I get to see him pitch live for the rest of the season.

Rain makes a baseball game about as boring as watching it on TV. The seats, and therefore your pants, are wet. The stadium is as empty as a New Jersey Nets game. And there's always the threat of the umpires postponing the game, making the trip a complete waste of time.

But throw in the fact that Rivera wasn't there, and for most of the evening, I just wanted to go back home.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cole Hamels Proves that Baseball Sucks

Yesterday, Major League Baseball announced a 5-game suspension for Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels as punishment for intentionally throwing at Washington Nationals rookie outfielder Bryce Harper.

The beaning occurred on Sunday, so after the past 2 days, this is old news. But forgive me for saying it again:

Cole Hamels INTENTIONALLY threw a 5-ounce object with a hard rubber center 93 miles per hour at Bryce Harper. That's called assault and battery. (In D.C., the lowest degree of the offense, "simple assault," would result in Hamels facing up to 6 months in prison.) But since in occurred within the confines of a MLB stadium, then the going rate is 1 missed start and about 500 large in penalties.

Now if 2 days transpiring between the play and this post makes it old news, I guess the weeks-old story of NFL players and coaches being suspended for much larger amounts of time has escaped our subconscious.

WWE for a NBA Fan - Pacific Division (Part 6)

Hi, friends. Welcome back for the last installment of WWE for a NBA Fan. For those of you that don't know, in my darkest NBA lockout doldrums, I started concocting alternative entertainment streams for those of us who missed basketball more than our own grandmothers. For a sundry of reasons, I realized that the WWE was a perfect alternative for the NBA, and for reasons that you wouldn't think. Knowing the 30 NBA fan bases, as well as the WWE Superstars as well as I do, I identified and matched up teams with various wrestlers, division by division.

Even though we've been writing these posts for months to little fanfare and zero critical acclaim, Grantland's Masked Man popularized the concept better than we could. In our 1-way rivalry with the mainstream's best pro wrestling writer, we're currently the Virgil to his "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. Except without all the racial discrimination subtext. Hopefully.

Today, we'll be finishing up the series by looking at the Pacific Division.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

State of Laker Nation Playoff Recap: Luckier than you think

The next morning after Game 3, I estimated that while the Nuggets have to be near perfect to beat the Lakers, LA merely only has to play hard to beat Denver. Looking at the Game 4 box score, a truer statement couldn't have been written.

The formula for Game 3 in the Nuggets/Lakers playoff series was the same as in Games 1 and 2; slow the game down, feed the ball to the inside, pound the boards and limit turnovers. Every part of the Lakers offensive and defensive attack is meant to slow the Nuggets' run and gun attack down to turn the highest scoring team in the league into a mere over matched and undersized squadron of role players. With a 3-1 series advantage, the Lakers seemingly did that.

Last night the narrative was pretty simple: Steve Blakers and Ramon Sessions hit some gigantic shots in the fourth quarter to put down a surging Nuggets squad. Everyone has been pretty focused on this:

But that's why MAMBINO is here; to expose some unseen corners of the contest you just watched.

MAMBINO Fantasy Mondays: Errbody on the Field Gettin' Injured

What's happening in the water in major metropolitan cities across the US? Has the trace amount of fluoride in the tap just suddenly started to disintegrate tendons in your joints? Has pine tar gained the properties that destroys calcium in your bones? I'm not sure exactly what's causing our favorite athletes to drop faster than Charles Barkley does names on TNT. Let's take a look at who exactly went on the 15-day DL this week, how it'll affect their team, but most importantly, how it's going to affect YOUR fantasy team.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

State of Laker Nation Playoff Recap: The Nuggets Hustle Shuffle

A few days ago, The CDP described 4 in-game deficiencies that YOUR...Los Angeles Lakers flashed during Game 2 in this 7 game series against the Denver Nuggets. To paraphrase, they included:

Battle of the Boards: The Lakers should never be outrebounded by this team... Denver has a lot of athletes and their team was hitting the boards hard, but the Lakers have got to do a better job of utilizing their length and boxing out on rebounds.

Defend the 3: Although Ty Lawson was shredding our interior at will, Denver’s offense only operated in spurts because they weren’t hitting the three. As KOBEshigawa pointed out at halftime, if they were hitting their jump shots, this would have been a much tougher team to defend and the Lakers might have been in trouble. The Lakers rotated to the perimeter much more quickly in the second half, but will need to be more consistent here on the road.  

Mental Focus: Their stars played like stars, but they also whined like them. Kobe/Andrew both failed to get back in time on several plays because they were complaining about non-calls.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mariano Rivera, Out for the Season

In what seems to be an epidemic in the sports world as of late, Mariano Rivera tore his ACL last night, shagging balls during Yankees batting practice in Kansas City. We'll wait until next week until BockerKnocker gets back from his out of town business trip (read: he's up to no good) for his no doubt heart-wrenching reaction, but in the meantime, we'll get some reflection from Mambinite and sullen Knicks soldier, El Miz:

Mayweather vs. Cotto Preview

(It's BockerKnocker coming to you live from the United Club at Newark Airport! Yeah that's right. I'm sneaky bougie)

Floyd Mayweather really grinds my gears. But when I really think about it, maybe he was right when he told Larry Merchant that he "never gets a fair shake."
Mayweather does a lot of things wrong. He willingly burns Ben Franklins in public, showing apathy for a denomination of currency at which even yours truly would never scoff. He displays ignorance by intentionally mispronouncing Manny Pacquiao's name and throwing jabs at Filipino culture. And he has the sportsmanship of the kid in youth rec leagues who would spit in his hands before shaking yours in the post game lineup.

But amazingly, I can find some ways to relate to and appreciate the guy.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

MAMBINO NBA Playoffs Roundtable

Look, we know you guys get sick of just me and BockerKnocker dominating the page. We get it. Handsome doesn't translate on the internet, otherwise you'd probably want more of us. But technology being the way it is, we're going to share the MAMBINO wealth and open up a NBA Playoffs roundtable to our stable of fine friends and writers - AO, El Miz, Thunderstolt, The King and of course, us two idiots. We're going to ask a few key questions in any series, and give our aficionados room to answer. Let's go!

T-Sizzle, Alumnus of Ball So Hard University, Out for the Season?

"Sizzle, Ball So Hard University".

This morning, ESPN reported that TerrelL Suggs, Pro Bowl LB for the Baltimore Ravens could miss the '12-'13 NFL season with a torn Achilles tendon. Reportedly, Suggs, perhaps known as T-Sizzle, injured himself while playing basketball this offseason. We can talk having an 8-figure salary and the concept of jeopardizing that by playing game of meaningless pick-up ball later, but for now, let's get some actual analysis from our go-to football wizard, TuckRule:

State of Laker Nation Playoff Recap: Right Where We Need To Be

Before we discuss the finer points of Game 2, take a collective deep breath Laker Nation. The Lakers are 2-0 heading back to Denver and have defended their home court. They led wire-to-wire both games and have never really been tested. All bets are off on the road, but we’re right where we need to be. Andrew Bynum may not have had a triple double, but he set a career playoff high with 27 points and Kobe reminded us mortals that he still has plenty left in the tank. Kobe dropped an effortless 38 points and had a LeBron-esquerun-down block that must be seen to be believed.

Let’s be clear: the Lakers did not win Game 2 looking like a grind-out Mike Brown team. They allowed Denver to shoot 44% from the field, were outrebounded 48-52 (including 30-23 at half), and failed to control the sparkplug in Ty Lawson, who scored 25 points on 17 shots and got to the rim whenever he wanted. The Lakers allowed Denver to run in transition off rebounds and even made Corey Brewer (13 points and 3 steals) look like a real NBA player. Sure, they had a few stretches where the defense tightened up, but defense was not the key to the game. They won this game playing like a Phil Jackson team of offensive savants selflessly sharing the basketball.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tyson Chandler takes home DPOY

Rest in Peace, Junior Seau

Running Diary - Celtics/Hawks Playoffs Game 2

One of the more intense sports debates I’ve had was three years ago about who was better now and who would have the better career: Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner. While three of us, including one Yankees fan, could agree that Ellsbury was superior, another Yankees fan was convinced that Gardner was the superior player. Fast forward to this offseason, I asked that same guy if he still thought Gardner was the better player to which he responded, “I said he was a better fit for the Yankees team at that time, not that he was a better player.” That situation right there exemplifies one of the annoying habits of many sports fans – revisionist history.

I’ve always wondered if I am guilty of this particularly in circumstances when I’m watching a game. For that reason, I decided to do a Bill Simmons-style running diary of the Celtics and Hawks game. Let's hit it:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Take a Supermodel to Work Day, featuring Kate Upton and the Oklahoma City Thunder

This is a public service announcement to all sports superstars that think they need to leave their current small market town for a bigger city, DBA victims of The South Beach Theory

Mambinites, please check out the afore-linked video shot by Skullcandy,  Kate Upton and NBA stars Kevin Durant and James Harden. It's a perfectly fine waste of two minutes of your work day.

Please note that the proceeding reasons were NOT why Skullcandy shot this video:
  • Oklahoma City is a major television market
  • KD and Harden have marketable personalities
  • The Thunder top the league in merchandise sales
  • Durant and Harden are good looking
None of those things are true. Especially the last bullet point. However, these are the reasons why a company sent out a film crew and a SUPER MODEL to Oklahoma to film this spot:
  •  The Thunder win, and they win a lot.
  • These two superstars genuinely care about winning above all else, and conduct themselves in a manner that best reflects that. 
That's it. Amazing.

Maybe the focus for guys like Carmelo and Dwight moving forward shouldn't be finding the biggest television market or the highest density urban center. Maybe it should be which team is run the best and consistently puts together a winning product on the floor. For all the talk of where Melo should go, or who Dwight wants to be traded to, it's amazing to me that San Antonio, Boston and Utah aren't met with the same type of trade speculation considering how often they win, and win big. Winning makes you marketable. Over everything else.

It even lets you bring a super model to work.

Understanding Lamar Odom's Failure

Word today was that Lamar Odom and his wife were cancelling their show,“Khloe & Lamar,” on E! so that he could focus on resurrect his basketball career next season. Their publicist rebutted the cancellation later, but I really hope she’s just trying to get them to reconsider. I think Odom deserves some time out of the spotlight to gather his thoughts and reconstruct his life, not just his playing career. He’s always been a favorite of mine, despite being an erratic on-court product. He’s a brilliant basketball player as well as a genuinely good person with an infectious smile. But the amount of speculation and media coverage directed at Lamar, both through his reality show and disastrous NBA season, would be enough to break most men, much less men that had been through as much personal tragedy and professional turmoil as Lamar.

A Brief History of Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom is and always will fit the archetype of the underachieving NBA megatalent. Although his two championships in Lakerland will help absolve him partially for his on the court performance, he never managed to win with Kobe until Pau came into town to take over the role of second option. Lamar was never meant to be the Pippen on a championship team, despite what his prodigious talent and Magic-like 6’9” frame might have suggested about his potential. The simple fact is that the Lakers were a much better team when he was a 6th man who could corral the bench as its playmaker or fill in for Pau/Andrew if they were hurt or in foul trouble rather than its workhorse. That way he could tantalize with his talent from time to time and take over the occasional game.  Regardless of what happened on the court, he was the emotional core of the team, the guy who set the locker room at ease, and a true friend to his teammates.

State of the Garden: Tuesdays with Amar'e

I was all set to have a positive Game 2 recap for you guys today. YOUR New York Knicks didn't back down from the now even more heavily favored Miami Heat, but ultimately fell short in a 10-point loss. It seemed as if Miami was in semi- to full control almost the whole night, but the Bockers put together a spirited effort, legitimately challenging what many have forgotten to be the NBA's best team.

The Knicks lost their starting point guard and replaced him with two declining veterans who probably played their best ball in blue and orange to date. It lost its best individual defensive player and alllllmost made up for his absence with collective effort and hustle. And it fought through the weeds of a hostile environment, not from the fair weather attendees, but because of whistles that were still blown to the advantage of the home team.

It's too easy to hop on the bash train for the now infamous post-game extracurricular activities in which "Standing Tall and Talented" participated. Interestingly, it's also forgivable to do so, barking and admonishing Stoudemire for Kevin Brown-ing his way through a glass container that housed a fire extinguisher. But I'm not going to do that today.

State of Laker Nation Playoffs Recap: Too Big, Too Strong, Too Good

"If I play good D, we'll win games. I think I'm just going to be as aggressively as I can defensively to contest their shots. ... You've got to win Game 1. Statistics are against the teams that lose Game 1, especially on the home court."

Andrew Bynum's quote after game 1 of the Western Conference first round matchup of the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets summed it up pretty tidily. With a monstrous 10/13/10 block performance, number 17 made his presence felt on every part of the floor, helping limit the highest scoring team in the league this year to only 88 points on 35% shooting. The Lakers won the first game of a potential 16 on the way to their 17th NBA title, and handily at that. With a wire-to-wire 103-88 W, LA thoroughly dominated the game, allowing only 1 Nugget over 12 points (Danilo Gallinari, with 19), and perhaps more importantly, limiting any Denver player to 8 or less rebounds.