Monday, January 23, 2006

Two Sports Notes

* The sports media will spend the next week dropping to their collective knees in front of Kobe Bryant in celebration of his obscene 81-point game on Sunday night. Needless to say, I do not share in their enthusiasm. I think anyone scoring 81 points in one game is an utter abortion of sportsmanship. He took 46 shots to score those 81 points, and had only 2 assists. I was under the crazy impression that basketball was a team game, but the rest of the team combined only took 42 shots. If I had been one of Bryant's teammates, I would have stopped expending the energy running back down to the offensive end. Why bother? Obviously they weren't being included, and if the opposing team wasn't sending all five defenders at Bryant anyway, then they weren't paying attention.

This is one of the biggest reasons why the NBA can't hold college basketball's jock as far as I'm concerned. Win or lose, it's a total team effort, night in and night out. You rarely see one guy at the college level turn the spotlight on himself like that. Most guys are good about spreading the ball around and getting their teammates involved. Otherwise, the team isn't going to win. Sure, the NBA will give you more "wow" plays, due to the superior athleticism of the players (and let's be fair, NBA guys are probably the best athletes in the world), but college basketball is the way to go for fundamentals and actual five-on-five competition.

Granted, I'm a little biased because I don't like the Lakers or Bryant anyway (although I was pretty neutral toward him until he first showed his selfishness by forcing Shaquille O'Neal and Phil Jackson out of L.A.--I have a real problem with guys who think they're bigger than their team or sport; for further reference, see Manning, Eli), and I will give him credit for a) shooting a decent percentage, and b) the fact that his team won. I still think taking that many shots is inexcusable unless you're hitting on even a higher percentage than he was.

* Last week, ownership of the Cincinnati Reds changed hands, going from Carl Lindner to Bob Castellini. The new owner came in saying all the right things, promising to do everything it takes to bring championship baseball to Cincinnati. That sounds good, but I have to admit that I was skeptical after I heard that the payroll for this coming year would stay around where it was last year. The Reds annually have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, which means they have a hard time competing with teams with higher payrolls and more talented players. So it just sounded to me like "meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

Now, though, it looks like Castellini really is going to shake things up. Whether that leads to championships remains to be seen, but at least he isn't going to be satisfied with the status quo. On Monday he fired general manager Dan O'Brien, who had been with the club for two full seasons. He also expressed an interest in bringing former manager Lou Piniella back to town. Piniella declined to take a job with the Reds organization, saying he wanted to take a year away from baseball, but I wouldn't feel too secure if I was Reds' manager Jerry Narron. While Narron did a decent job after taking over last season (after Dave Miley was fired), the jury is still very much out on him. We'll see what he does starting from a clean slate. Personally, I would love for Piniella to come back to Cincinnati, and I doubt there would be too many Reds fans who would disagree with me. Sweet Lou was the manager of the Reds the last time they went to and won the World Series, all the way back in 1990.

The Reds will look to get a new general manager in place by the time spring training begins, which happens on February 16. It'll be interesting to see who they bring in. I just hope the new GM's first move is to trade pitcher Dave Williams to Pittsburgh for first baseman Sean Casey. That's not going to happen, so I guess I'm really just saying that it would have been nice if O'Brien could have been fired before he traded Casey away in the first place.

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