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ROUNDTABLE: Tim Duncan Retires

ROUNDTABLE: Tim Duncan Retires

Tim Duncan was great, but how great?

The Open Field Roundtable

Tim Duncan has retired. He had an insanely successful career, starting for a championship team in three different decades. He won five rings overall, was a two-time NBA MVP, three-time NBA Finals MVP, NBA Rookie of the Year, a 15-time All-Star, and was selected for the All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams in each of his first 13 seasons. Not too shabby. But where does he rank all time? Where will he fall in the list of all-time greats when a descendant of Bill Simmons writes The Book of Basketball 5? The Open Field writers have some thoughts.


Michael H: I’m generally not a fan of best ever lists and top tens and the like due to the naturally subjective nature of things like that. Having said that, Tim Duncan should sit comfortably within the Top Ten NBA Players Ever forever. (For a really good reaction to Timmy’s retirement, check out Shea Serrano’s first piece for The Ringer; he’s back baby!) Duncan was stoic, matter-of-fact, and seemingly humorless, but he got shit done. He won championships, perfected the lost art of the bank shot, and never committed a foul – at least according to him. Besides his upper echelon basketball talent, my favorite thing about Timmy was every one of his reactions to being called for a foul. He would immediately turn into a live human version of the shrug emotion. Every. Single. Time. Congrats on a phenomenal career, Tim. Enjoy staring emotion-free into the middle distance for the rest of your life.

 


Jake : I’m not much for the NBA save sheer entertainment value (keep swearing in real time, D’angelo, I love you so much) so an uber fundamental guy like Duncan without much of a media presence off the court wasn’t really up my alley – and I’d think you can make the same case about the rest of this spurs core, which is now…much different. That said – its never been in doubt how impressive of a figure Popovich is – and any old white dude who gives polite enough to get fined one word answer interviews continually in the playoffs has got to be respected in the players he chooses to build a franchise around. In this case, Duncan. I guess this is really 2016 of me, but as Michael mentioned above – Shea Serrano loves The Spurs and by association – ‘ol loose shirt Duncan. The farewell piece was lovely, and I feel for Shea like I feel for a friend who’s just lost the worlds’ greatest dog, so that’s my Monday.


Matt: I’m going to take Michael’s top 10 statement and go a little further, claiming TD to be a top 5 player of all time. He sits behind MJ, Kareem, Wilt the Stilt and Lebron for me. Why does he leapfrog guys like Larry Legend, Kobe, Oscar and Magic? The numbers are just off the charts.. Some other players match those numbers in a few areas, but none have a better collective resume than Timmy. His off the court reputation is shining. We never heard any negative stories about him. In fact, we often do not hear about the wonderful things he has done for his community either. In a sport which is intertwined with pop culture, Timmy somehow managed to simply play the game he loved, and nothing else. No major movie roles or failed rap careers. For me, TD is cemented as a top 5 player of all time. But can you imagine what conversation we’d be having if he had Magic’s personality?! Springfield is going to gain a guy who is the skeleton of the sport. Fundamentals. Defense. Coachability. Some players keep their hands up after a pretty three. Tim kept both up to block a slashing two guard. If you like players who never lose sight of their passion and place their sport over all of the auxiliary social benefits, Tim is your man. When the game inevitably shifts back towards dominant big men, tapes of Duncan will be the first thing studied. So, let’s just take a bow and thank the gods above Mr. Duncan decided to pick basketball over swimming.


Shaun:  It is difficult to say “so long” to one half of probably the greatest player/coach duo in sports history at the moment.  No, not Brady/Belichick.  This has been 19 years of sustained excellence that is unrivaled.  The 5 championships, in a vacuum, might not blow away anyone that roots for the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, or Robert Horry, but in just two decades, Duncan worked to bring an otherwise tiny-market team with little following outside of a 100-mile radius in Southwest Texas to a quiet juggernaut that has competed for a championship for pretty much my entire life.  And when they have won, it has been with completely different teams:

1998-99: David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Sean Ellliott, Mario Elie, Avery Johnson

2002-03: David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Stephen Jackson, Bruce Bowen, Tony Parker

2004-05: Nazr Mohammed, Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker

2006-07: Francisco Elson, Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen, Michael Finley, Tony Parker

2012-13: Tiago Splitter, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tony Parker

Aside from Tony Parker (and Ginobili usually off the bench), this franchise has changed identities, changed play-styles – from the “Twin Towers” to small ball and 3-pointers – and anything else you can think of.  Throughout it all, though, there were two constants.  Even more so than Kobe Bryant, no one has had a stranglehold on the Western Conference in the last two decades like Tim Duncan has.  The entire landscape of the league shifts as one of the best to ever do it moves on.


Mikey: The 2016/17 Warriors just claimed their first victim. Tim Duncan’s retirement means that San Antonio will open their season without the lanky Power Forward for the first time in nearly two decades. Shaun spoke to a change in identity for the teams Timmy has been a part of before, but the next chapter for the Spurs will be to cope with life after the cornerstone of their organization.

He did it quietly, without a farewell tour, and without headlines. Tim Duncan was pure in that he never felt larger than the collective pieces, never felt entitled to anything more than the opportunity he was given. Does this look like the outfit of an ego-centric superstar?

PHOTO-Tim-Duncan-Gets-Off-Team-Bus-In-Memphis-With-4-Out-Of-3-People-Struggle-With-Math-T-Shirt

Or does it look more like the goofy, fun-loving, ultra-competitive superstar that has been the definition of consistency since his league introduction in 1997? I see a hero, and someone that will only truly be appreciated after we all take a step back and judge the entirety of his career as a whole. I will miss Timmy, I will miss my brother mocking his free-throw routine, I will miss his elbow extended bank jump shot, and I will miss his outfits.

Most of all, I will miss the gif that brings me a smile each and every time I use it. It will no longer be complete without Tim. RIP this gif, and congratulations to Tim Duncan. A Top 7 NBA player of all time.

 

 

 

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Kevin Durant Sweepstakes Time! Let’s Pitch Him the City of Boston as Best We Can

Kevin Durant Sweepstakes Time! Let’s Pitch Him the City of Boston as Best We Can

by Shaun (@slough44)

Boston is now in the front of the line for one of the biggest free agent signings in the past couple decades.  Kevin Durant.  My goodness, wouldn’t that be nice?  May not happen, though.  The Celtics now have some cap space, but so does half the league, given this notorious spike in the NBA salary cap.  So the odds might be slim, but the biggest surprise to me has been, quite frankly, that they even have a chance.  They’ve never had that before.

I didn’t feel like going to hunt for old articles to link to this post, and if you Google “Boston Celtics bad free agent market” you cannot even sniff what you’re looking for because the news is too packed with the fact that they are a big player in 2016.  But historically, Boston has not been the best place to come play for an NBA free agent.  Gun to my head, you ask me “Miami, Los Angeles, or Boston?” and it’ll take me quite a while to give you an answer.  And that’s just chubby old me.  Now imagine being an NBA superstar.  It just is not going to happen.

GUANGZHOU, CHINA - JULY 09: (CHINA OUT) NBA player Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City Thunder reacts during a meet and greet with fans at South China Agricultural University on July 9, 2011 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

But now here we are!  Very exciting times.  Now that it is the first of July, free agent season begins.  So what will the Celtics pitch to Durant during their interview?  God only knows, but we need to come up with some good ideas.  There are plenty of things to pitch to an NBA all-star about this city.  So rich in culture, food, the arts, history.  You name it, Boston has it.  I have put together a list of things that we can use to lure in Durantula.

COME TO BOSTON.  WE HAVE:


Whale Watching

Long Wharf is beautiful.  Especially if you have children, Kevin.  Do you have children?  Ahhh it doesn’t matter – either way, between Legal Sea Foods, Tia’s, or the site-seeing at the end of the wharf, you’re going to love it.  But here is the thing, Kevin – they have boats!

For just like $12 or something – not really sure – you can hop on one of the New England Aquarium’s cruise ships and head out of Boston Harbor and into the Atlantic to see some of nature’s most mystical creatures.  Humpback whales, I think.  They are lovely.

Now I’ll admit, I haven’t seen one in about six years.  I think it was when I was chaperoning my kid’s field trip.  But when I saw it, it was amazing.  The whale blew water in the air.  Then his tail came out of the water.  ELECTRIC stuff.  So much action over the course of like an hour and a half.

The boat is great, too.  The cruise ship doubles as the public transportation ferry that commutes from Hingham and Hull – you probably will never visit there but that’s okay.  So essentially, you get to maybe have a 1/6 chance of seeing a whale while sitting in the same booth someone prepared for a morning meeting in.  So relaxing.

the-boat


South Boston

Kevin, these people will love you.  Imagine the biggest Kappa Sigma frat party you ever attended at Texas.  You probably walked through the back door, or hung out in the driveway, took a hundred pictures, and then left after one of your boys took a bottle of vodka out from behind the bar.  That sounds like my ideal college party, by the way.

Okay, so take that, and multiply it by 2,000 people.  THAT is Southie.  You will fit right in, I promise.  A 6’10”, nearly-30-year old, African-American from Washington D.C.?  You are basically a regular there!  It is a match made in heaven.

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See, Kevin?  PERFECT crowd to spend your Thursday night with.

You made it to Southie in the 21st-century as well, which will benefit you.  It used to be all Irish people.  Not only did they barely speak English, but they weren’t exactly… well they just weren’t very friendly.  Nowadays, though, you have thousands of 25-year old former high school baseball studs that now work at State Street Financial as associates and voted for Trump because he “speaks his mind.”  It is SO much more refreshing there now!

And the girls are top notch, too.  You ever had Fireball Whiskey before?  No?  Well you will learn soon.  Just don’t cheer openly for the Redskins or the Capitals or Texas or pretty much any athletic team on television ever when you’re at Stats Bar & Grille.  We don’t need to be dealing with any concussions.


By the way, when you go to the beach, do you like water slightly above freezing?  No?  Alright let’s move on.


Ski Resorts

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The Greater Boston Metropolitan area has them by the boatload.  My two favorites are Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford, and Blue Hills Ski Area in Canton.  The snow is so fluffy, and the views are gorgeous.  At Nashoba, my favorite view is of the snow-covered outdoor tiki bar that is only open in the summers when you won’t be here and you’ll be at your house in Los Angeles.

You are an athlete.  We all know that.  So skiing will not be an issue at all.  You can even get some snowboarding in the mix – trying to drag some knuckles and shred gnarly pow pow, man?  Nahhhh, I’m just kidding.  You know I’m kidding – this guy, he knows I’m a joker.  That’s what we do here, we like to work hard and play hard here in Boston.  You don’t get 17 banners in the rafters without working hard.

But anyways, back to skiing.  It’s basically a smaller Breckenridge.  It’s Aspen with some attitude.  Boston loves to ski in the winter.  Or just skitch on a trash can off the back of a bumper on a Subaru down Beacon Hill.  Either way, find a way to enjoy the snow, because your entire season will be under snow cover.  Oh, it doesn’t snow in Los Angeles or Miami?  Didn’t know that.


The Freedom Trail

There is something truly awesome, like in the truest sense of the word, about wandering through a cemetery and seeing headstones and graves of some of the nameless founding fathers of this nation.  I mean, these guys created this nation, and they died 230 years ago, so the cemetery isn’t in great shape – but still, just imagine it in your brain.  And then you get to walk through the city, on broken cobblestone, for several miles, while you look at old churches that are really just bars and nightclubs now but at least the foundation is still in the ground.

Remember Paul Revere from history class?  Yeah, he was captured like 15 miles from here in Concord but we can stand here in the middle of the street while our tour guide tells us the story.  You won’t see it at all, but then again, you haven’t seen any of it.  None of the Freedom Trail actually exists anymore.  But it is still so wonderful to follow.

The-Freedom-Trail-Foundation-Walking-Tour-2


Okay, so that’s my pitch to Kevin.  Four lockdown talking points to lure him here.  I don’t think he can say “no,” frankly.  If you have any other awesome ideas, share them with us.  I can send them along to Danny Ainge because we both sat courtside at a Boston College basketball game one time so I basically have his e-mail address.

And by the way, for my money, I’m thinking Kevin Durant stays in Oklahoma City.

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Dustin Johnson is now a Major Champion. Time to Update our “PGA Loser” Power Rankings.

Dustin Johnson is now a Major Champion. Time to Update our “PGA Loser” Power Rankings.

The USGA apparently hates bad boys.  How in the hell do you tell a human, two-thirds of the way through a golf round, that you may or may not punish them with a one-stroke penalty?  Imagine LeBron James playing the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s game without knowing the score.  If I’m up two points, maybe I slow the clock down and get it in the paint.  If I’m up three, I coast even more.  If I’m up one, or it’s tied, well now I’m mentally in an entirely different place.

That is what it is like playing the back nine of a major championship without knowing the score, times a MILLION.

But Dustin Johnson overcame it.  What a great afternoon of golf.  Post-Tiger PGA is in a tremendous place right now after a few questionable years – there are so many stars out there that make Sundays in the summer as exciting as can be.

Dustin Johnson, however, is a bad boy.  Make no mistake about it.  The cocaine suspension.  The rumors about affairs with other golfers’ wives.  The new wife, who was wearing… well let’s just say she wasn’t exactly wearing 18th-hole-at-the-country-club clothes on Sunday.  I think this was an all-out sabotage, and to try and sabotage one of the biggest choke artists in golf history was just pitiful.  And then, like a phoenix from the ashes, he rose above it all and didn’t choke!  How did Dustin Johnson not choke?

I have always liked DJ.  Tough to drop that statement after listing his resume in the last paragraph.  Whoops.  He is the longest hitter on Tour, which is always fun to watch.  He has the swagger.  And for some reason, I’ve always been a TaylorMade guy.  No reason for it.  It’s weird when people who like golf just kind of pick a brand and stick with it, but here we are.

But DJ has always been a perennial choker.  It’s been his M.O.  And not only does he choke, but he painfully chokes.  There was 2010 at Whistling Straits.  Then there was 2015 at Chambers Bay.  I mean, when Dustin Johnson chokes he goes ALL-FREAKING-TIME with it.  So I never expected Sunday to ever happen, and when the one-stroke penalty news started, I thought “well, here we go again!”

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Oh my God, look at Lee Westwood’s face on the left side of the photo. Yes.

So now we need to find some new people to point and laugh at.  Some of them are mostly old faces, who have always been chokers, but now with Dustin Johnson as a certified winner, there are new loveable losers on the Tour that we need to pay attention to.  This is essentially a short list of reminders.  “Hey, did you remember these guys stink, too?”

Here is the thing with golf – and this goes for pros and amateurs alike – there is no sport more mentally infuriating.  Most likely it is because of the individuality of the whole competition.  Quite frankly, the biggest opponent in golf is the golfer him(her)self.  Which is why, as a fan of professional golf, we need chokers.  We need the drama of absolute misery.  It fuels the sport.  Greg Norman.  Retief Goosen.  Watching people fail at golf is weirdly as satisfying as watching people experience glory in golf.  Let’s find us some losers.


Sergio Garcia

Even before Dustin Johnson won on Sunday, Sergio still had the top spot among chokers.  Rooting for Sergio Garcia to fail is as American as apple pie.  Perfectly fitting that he was at the top of the leaderboard for this disaster on Sunday – same as Lee Westwood, who we will get to.

This was the man that was going to be Tiger’s arch enemy.  Nicklaus/Palmer.  Bird/Magic.  Columnists across the country painted this as the biggest golf rivalry of all-time.  Then Tiger just kept winning.  Jesus.  Sergio never stood a chance.  That went over like a fart in church.

4th at the Masters, 3rd at the British, 2nd at the U.S. Open, and 2nd at the PGA Championship.  Talk about coming up short.  Yuck.  He doesn’t just lose, however, but he does it with style.

Players Championship. Sergio is in first place.  This is essentially golf’s “fifth major” so it’s still kind of a big deal I guess.  This is going to happen!  THREE GOLF BALLS INTO THE WATER ON THE 17TH AND 18TH HOLE.  8th place finish after quadruple and double-bogeys.  Cannot make that up.  Really cannot.  Sergio will always go down in the history as the best loser in PGA Tour history and the mere fact that he is still in the hunt, major after major, only speaks volumes to how much we are going to enjoy him losing for a long time.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ia1QbVxsfLg]

“A player, whose championship composure has been tested so many times…” – Jim Nantz, on the one and only Sergio.

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Lee Westwood

This guy just strolls under the radar because his choking is not as fantastic as Garcia, but this guy cannot win any of the big ones.  Indeed, 42 career wins is a lot; I’ll give you that (even if only 2 of them were on the PGA tour).  But Christ, guy: 2nd at the Masters, 3rd at the U.S. Open, 2nd at the British Open, and 3rd at the PGA Championship.  Get over the hump one time for me.  Another pairing in one of the final groups this weekend and then just fades into oblivion by the end of the round.  Guy hasn’t even won a World Golf Championship tournament before, and I know that all the prize money is in the WGC – at least judging by the back of Hank Haney’s book on Tiger where he lists all of Tiger’s wins.  That’s my only knowledge on the WGC.

Lee Westwood actually ended Tiger Woods’ reign as the number one ranked golfer in the world in 2010.  He’s been at the top, despite never winning a damn thing.  Consider Westwood the Washington Capitals of professional golf.  Not to mention, after Westwood’s time at number one, Martin Kaymer reached number one, and that was probably the darkest time in golf’s recent history.  When Westwood, Kaymer, and Luke Donald were at the top of the sport, I figured we were all in trouble.

I will give Westwood one thing, however – he is a Ryder Cup stud.  That hurts even more for me because the Ryder Cup is all about pride and Lee freaking Westwood keeps causing problems for the United States.

Ian Poulter

“Don’t get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer, but I know I haven’t played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger.” – Ian Poulter, circa 2008, Golf World Magazine.

I hate Ian Poulter more than any human on the planet.  I don’t even think it is irrational hate, either.  I think there is such a good reason for hating Ian Poulter.  He dresses like a complete idiot and he acts like a jack ass for absolutely no reason.  Let’s check out Ian’s major finishes: 6th at the Masters, 12th at the U.S. Open, 2nd at the British Open, and 3rd at the PGA Championship.

Can’t even call Poulter a choker, because truth is, he never had a chance in the first place.  Guy just doesn’t cut it.  “It will be just me and Tiger.” Suuuuure, guy.

The thing about Ian Poulter is that he is the guy that wants to call everyone else out.  He wants to let you know when someone else broke an unwritten rule, or they were rude on the course, but frankly, he’s just the biggest jerk in the group.  Ohhh I don’t like how Hideki Matsuyama hit the green there.”  If you’re a baseball guy, look up Brian McCann.  That kind of moron.

TURNBERRY, SCOTLAND - JULY 16: Ian Poulter of England gestures during round one of the 138th Open Championship on the Ailsa Course, Turnberry Golf Club on July 16, 2009 in Turnberry, Scotland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Rickie Fowler

I’m projecting here, because I think this is going to be Fowler’s fate.  He has one Player’s Championship title, and six PGA titles overall.  And in 2014 he had a monster season – the only player to finish in the top 5 in every single major in that calendar year.  They are also all of his best finishes in his fledgling career: 5th at the Masters, 2nd at the U.S. Open, 2nd at the British Open, and 3rd at the PGA Championship.

The entire previous paragraph sounds like a real good start for a 27-year old golfer.  But to me, everything about Fowler’s game spells trouble.  This is a golfer that has a massive following, primarily in the younger demographics.  But he has the potential to put a string of birdie, birdie, par, triple bogey together.  That kind of golfer.

Those massive blow-up holes spell nothing but trouble in a major championship.  Rickie needs to get one under his belt early in the career because that monkey on his back is only going to get larger – much like Lee Westwood.

I hope I’m wrong about this one, but we shall see…

Shaun’s good ole nugget for the end of each post: Justin Rose will win the British Open.

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ROUNDTABLE — NBA Finals Game 7 Reactions

ROUNDTABLE — NBA Finals Game 7 Reactions

(Editor’s note: Roundtable time. For those unfamiliar, whoever wants to contribute from The Open Field staff can share whatever thoughts they have. Last night was not void of thoughts. Last night was incredible.)


NBA FINALS REACTIONS

Shaun

One of my favorite individual plays in NBA history has always been Detroit Pistons forward, Tayshaun Prince, blocking Indiana Pacers guard, Reggie Miller, right against the backboard on a seemingly wide-open breakaway lay-up in Game Two of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals.  Random play, I know.  But the moment was just so huge.

Detroit was up 69-67 (hope you bet the under) with less than a minute to go in the game, and the individual effort by Prince helped seal a win for a team that would eventually go on to upset the powerhouse Lakers in the championship, all but ending the Kobe/Shaq era.  And with 2003-04 being the year that Detroit drafted Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony with the 2nd overall pick, I like to think that Prince would not have even been on the floor for that play… and the NBA timeline would look a hell of a lot different today.

But last night dethroned this play.  Call it “The Block” forever.  It deserves that name.  Kyrie Irving hit the big 3-pointer to win the game, but Lebron James blocking Andre Igoudala was the game-winning play.  Might be the single greatest defensive effort of my lifetime – I never saw Havlicek steal the ball.

The narrative surrounding the end of that game is too perfect for Lebron haters as well: “Oh look, someone other than Lebron hit the big shot yet again.”  But Lebron James is not the best player on the planet because he can hit every single buzzer beater.  That is Kobe’s job, or Pierce’s job.  Lebron instead leads every single player on the court in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and assists.  And Lebron chases down Iguodala from behind (beside the point: pretty sure Iguodala, and Miller as well in 2004, were both incredibly unhealthy humans with osteoporosis and no legs) to make this play.  Twelve feet above the rim, perhaps.  Truly mesmerizing stuff.  THAT, is what I will remember about Game Seven last night.  Take your pick on which block is more impressive.


Eric

Although I am not a big basketball fan, I did watch game 7 of the NBA finals for a couple reasons. First off, I bet the Cavs to win the series so I was pretty excited to even be watching this game after going down 3-1. The second reason is that I actually am starting to like Lebron lately. I think the fact that he is becoming a self-aware villain might have something to do with it especially with how he was constantly being over the top with Cleveland references in Trainwreck.

Last night’s game also solidified the other reason I respect LeBron. He came to play in a big game. Whether it was making a big shot or getting back to block another towards the end of the game, James was determined to bring Cleveland a championship. On the other hand, I know Curry was the MVP this year and I only really saw his highlights through the season but he was horrible. Some of the shots he was chucking up reminded me of a younger self in my one year of town basketball that I only played because I won a game of knockout in gym class. I mean for the guy who was lights out all year and holds the three point record it seemed like the Monstars stole some of his talent. Again take all of my takes lightly since I’m a hockey guy.


Michael H.

What the hell just happened? The Cavs really won three straight against the purported best team in NBA history, two of those on the road. Here’s the things that made the difference in my mind:

  • LeBron is impossible;
  • Kyrie crashed through his glass ceiling;
  • More like The Sprinkle Brothers, am I right?stephen-curry-gun-violence-psa__oPt

Mikey

Well I, for one, did not see that coming. Shaun, amazing comparison with Tay and LBJ, that is the first thought I had when Iggy saw his shit get sent. You really can not summarize what last night’s game will mean to the NBA and its future without putting some context into the equation.

LeBron James is the best player on the planet, and he has been all season. He has not played the best basketball on the planet, Stephen Curry has, this past season. Sustainability, brute force, and the actual dominance that were all shown in abundance by LeBron last night (and in his entire career) are casual reminders that, hey, this dude is FUCKING RIDICULOUS.

Stephen Curry had the best season a point guard has ever had, on a team that broke a seemingly unbreakable record. Take nothing away, he was incredible for an entire NBA season, and we may be talking about this as the greatest shooting season of all time, but there was just one thing missing.

The NBA Title is going to Cleveland, on the back of the greatest player in the world.

cleveland-cavaliers-nba-win-lebron-james

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Why is Ezekiel Elliott Already an NFL (and Fantasy Football) Superstar?

Why is Ezekiel Elliott Already an NFL (and Fantasy Football) Superstar?

Let’s play the “Guess This Player” game.  It’s the go-to move for the “I want to make an argument for my favorite player but I only have stats to back it up with no context” guy:

Player A: 510 rushes, 3285 yards, 36 TDs

Player B: 748 rushes, 4041 yards, 41 TDs

Player C: 671 rushes, 3346 yards, 33 TDs

Player D: 592 rushes, 3961 yards, 43 TDs

These are collegiate statistics, which are admittedly not the best indicator of success in the NFL (see Richardson, Trent).  But when you are talking about a running back that has never played a single snap in the pros, well that’s all you have to go off of.

So, three of these running backs are the perennial top 3 studs in the league right now, and one is a rookie.

A.) Todd Gurley; B.) Adrian Peterson; C.) Le’Veon Bell; D.) Ezekiel Elliott.

Elliott had the most touchdowns of the bunch, and was second in yards to Peterson.

Here’s the thing – I am a self-hating fantasy sports participant.  There is actually a draft of a blog post on how much I hate fantasy sports somewhere in the Open Field’s closet that never got posted (hey Mikey, thanks a lot, jerk).  I’m a hypocrite, though, because I play it year-round.

But anyways, I just can’t stand the constant comparing of one player to another, without any context behind their performance – just numbers against numbers.  I am a gambling man (hope mom and significant other aren’t reading this) so the fantasy talk is even more infuriating to me.

“Oh man, I needed A.J. Green to score a touchdown on that play to beat my old college roommate in fantasy this week!”

Yeah, well, I had the Bengals -6.5 for half of my rent check and they only settled for a field goal, so shut up with your fantasy woes.

So that is why I started this piece with the sarcastic/ironic comparison of blind player statistics.  Because Ezekiel Elliott is currently being ranked among these NFL studs without an ounce of proof behind it.  The question becomes: why, in the current state of the NFL, in which the running back is unfortunately very replaceable, are we so high on Elliott?

He has instantly shot to the top of fantasy boards, which at this stage of the year, two months before preseason, is really the only indicator we have for projected performance.  Listening to The Ringer NFL Show podcast, and reading articles from CBS, ESPN, etc. will prove it.

1,300 yards? 1,400 yards?  As a rookie?  Fair enough.  He is currently being projected to have one of the greatest rookie seasons for a running back in NFL history.  Well, let’s do more comparing.  Here are the top rookie performers of all-time:

Edgerrin James, 1999, Indianapolis Colts: 369 rushes, 1,553 yards, 13 TDs (WHAT)

Eric Dickerson, 1983, Los Angeles Rams (hey, that team is relevant again): 390 rushes, 1,808 yards, 18 TDs (DOUBLE WHAT)

There were some other major performers as rookies as well, but these two stand out the most to me.  So this is what we are dealing with.  Elliott has to perform like this in order to meet the expectations of some of the pundits out there.  Matthew Berry at ESPN has him #4, Mike Clay at ESPN has him #3, Jamey Eisenberg has him #4 for running back ranks.  And on and on and on.

ESPN Radio’s Mike Greenberg thinks Elliott will LEAD THE NFL IN YARDS FROM SCRIMMAGE.  Sidebar – don’t listen to Mike Greenberg too often, kids.  The last time a rookie led the NFL in this statistic was in 1983, with Mr. Dickerson, who I already mentioned.

Quite a bit of pressure, huh?

Much of Elliott’s success will depend on his jersey style.  NFL uniform rules are strict, so maybe with a crop top, he’ll be the MVP.  Maybe with a tucked-in shirt, he’ll be Trent Richardson (see Richardson, Trent).

But in all seriousness, if I am a rookie running back coming into the league, the Dallas Cowboys are a team that would be at the top of my list for places I want to play.

CBS Sports labels this draft pick to Dallas as a “dream scenario.”

The Cowboys had no right finishing 4-12 last year.  They were far too talented for that.  And now everyone is coming back healthy, with an offensive line two years separated from springing Demarco Murray for nearly 2,000 rushing yards.  They aren’t perfect, though, and while they are hailed as one of the best in the league, there are flaws.

Also, with Dez Bryant on the field, a running back is guaranteed to receive less attention than he should.  That is the perk of being a rookie in this explosive offense – hence this massive upside Elliott has been tagged with.

But in today’s NFL, any running back not named “Adrian Peterson” has a productive day with 20 touches.  Furthermore, any running back on the same roster as Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris should be salivating over 20 touches.  McFadden also eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark last year with a banged up Cowboy offense, mind you.  This backfield is jam-packed.  And just one fumble, or one cramp, could sit you down for a quarter at a time.

What I’m getting at, is it is interesting that the most sought-after running back prospect since… well since Todd Gurley last year, but ignore that… is on a roster in which he will be pouring sweat just to get playing time.

I’m excited to see Ezekiel Elliott in the NFL.  Very excited.  I think his pad control, his balance after taking on contact, and his ability to run north and south are qualities that coaches and front offices alike pray they could find in a running back (see also, Richardson, Trent).  But perhaps this high praise is a tad premature – premature for all the right reasons, if you’re Dallas.  It’s a stacked roster that the guy still has to break into.

It’ll be fun to watch for sure.  I think Dallas is a clear-cut favorite this year (going to regret typing those words).   Let’s see how it plays out.  Hopefully Elliott can shut up those two or three critics that think Jalen Ramsey was the better choice for Dallas at the #4 pick.

 

And as always, a nugget for the morons that stick with me until the end of a piece: David Johnson for the Arizona Cardinals will be the best running back in football in 2016.

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Who Writes for The Open Field?? — Shaun

Who Writes for The Open Field?? — Shaun

(Editor’s Note — The guys here at The Open Field do a lot. They don’t always get a lot in return. Today I am going to publish some pieces from each guy and tell you a little about what makes them great. If you want to contribute, I wrote a quick thing today about how to get involved)


Here is Shaun’s bio which he provided me when we started The Open Field back in February. Shaun was an original contributor, and a teammate and friend in high school.

Shaun currently resides in Hartford, Connecticut by way of Syracuse, New York and Maynard, Massachusetts. As a second-year law student, The Open Field serves as a nice reminder for him that there is life outside of the walls of the library, and it serves as an outlet to stay in touch with all forms of pop culture. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he played rugby (because he was too unathletic in high school to play an NCAA sport). Always looking to think critically, if the topic of conversation is not about the 2013 Boston Red Sox or Nas’ Illmatic, he will somehow find a way to be cynical about it. By far, his most attractive attribute is that he is not allergic to poison ivy. He is color blind, though, so that causes some issues. Hopefully he does not get swallowed up by textbooks and case law during The Open Field’s fledgling days, but until then, he is thrilled to contribute to the team.

If you read that introduction, you can already tell what was going on with Shaun. A second year law student, holy shit how does he find the time to post? He is in the library or doing work so consistently that anyone would understand if he was unable to carve out the time to write for fun. That is exactly what makes his posts so god damn amazing. Shaun is, quite frankly, the smartest person on this site and it isn’t even close. His pieces require very little to no editing, they are always well thought out and articulate, and he is not lazy at all with his depth and length of the piece. My favorite article of Shaun’s is actually a piece not intended for The Open Field, but instead a deep-dive into the “fallacy of the student-athlete” which takes an educated look at the idea of paying kids to play collegiate sport. Here is a link to it:

Addressing the Fallacy of the ‘Student-Athlete’

 

Shaun can be reached via twitter here : @slough44

 

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Beautiful Disasters — Historic Regular Season Teams who fail in the Postseason

Beautiful Disasters — Historic Regular Season Teams who fail in the Postseason

I’m not going to write about the 2007 New England Patriots that finished 18-1. Not going to do it. No way, no how. I’m also not going to write about the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors that finished the regular season 73-9 either, because as of this writing, they’re not out of it yet. But people are talking. Warriors have their back against the wall. They have to win 2 more in a row against Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (and Steven freaking Adams) in order to make it to the NBA Finals, where everyone was sure they were a shoe-in. There is something fascinating about these types of teams – I’ll call them the “Beautiful Disasters” (shout out to 311). They waltz through the regular season, lighting record books on fire, only to hit a randomly-placed brick wall in the postseason.

And then they sink into oblivion, forgotten by a majority of sports fans for eternity…

Do you remember the 2001 Seattle Mariners? No? Exactly. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

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(Author’s Note: I have nothing new to talk about, like, ever. So I just write about old things because I have no new ideas. Don’t tell Mikey. I don’t want the boss to know that my brain is dry.)

 

116 wins in a Major League Baseball season. Baffling. I could not imagine the Red Sox winning 116 games this season and they are currently lighting the world on fire with their offense. It’s amazing. But 116 games is untouchable. Unless you are the 2001 Seattle Mariners. And no one realizes it, because they didn’t win a damn thing (ya know, except 116 regular season games).

Let’s go back to 1999. Ken Griffey Jr. – the best baseball player you and I have ever witnessed – decides he wants out of Seattle. This was the city that made him a superstar, but he wanted to be closer to his family. His resume was the gold standard in baseball in the decade he spent there – 398 home runs, a 1997 MVP award, and on and on. But the team did not perform all too well, only turning in 5 winning seasons between 1989-1999. Once Griffey decided he wanted out, he was traded to Cincinnati for some players and a bag of baseballs (one of those guys was Mike Cameron. We’ll talk about him later). It truly was the end of an era in Mariners history.

Let’s jump forward one year – to 2000. Alongside Griffey, some handsome young chap from Miami, Florida came into his own in the league, making 4 All-Star games while in a Seattle uniform. That handsome young man goes by the name Alex Rodriguez. But we all know that Alex Rodriguez loves money, so as a free agent in 2000, he decided to ship off to Texas to sign the most lucrative contract in sports history at the time – making a whopping $252 million. The 2000 Mariners lost in the ALCS to the New York Yankees. There was still promise, but A-Rod was out of there.

So let’s wind it back and sum it up – two of the greatest baseball players of all-time spent a total of six years on the same team, and they turned in nothing to show for it. Quite literally nothing. And then they both decide to leave within two years of each other, and what remained in that Seattle Mariners locker room was the human form of one giant shoulder shrug.

Another author’s note: first off, don’t complain that I’m pausing again. You chose to read this. Secondly, I said those two guys were two of the best players of all-time. Well, the top five position players of my generation, 90s-00s, goes in order: (1) Griffey; (2) Bonds; (3) Rodriguez; (4) Pujols; (5a) J.D. Drew; (5b) David Eckstein. Fight me, I dare you.

(Editor’s note: I am in the midst of flying 3,000 miles to fight you for that. Like, actually fight. JD FUCKING DREW?!?! )

How the HELL are the Mariners going to fill the gaps that Griffey and Rodriguez left in the line up? Well they went and got Scott Podsednik, Bret Boone, and some guy from Japan that no one had ever heard of on the free agent market. Sweet, guys – have fun in the basement of the AL West forever.

Well, we were all wrong.

mariners

I can’t even tell you how they put it together. I didn’t even mention the fact that Randy Johnson also left Seattle in 1998. They were entirely depleted. And that Japanese free agent – his name was Ichiro Suzuki, by the way – wasn’t performing well in spring training. Jay Buhner injured his foot. It was an unmitigated disaster.

But then somehow, it all clicked, and baseball fans were in for an unbelievable ride. That same Ichiro that barely hit in spring training ended up batting .350 on the year, on his way to the AL MVP award in his first season in the United States. Bret Boone, that free agent pick up the Mariners signed to try and fill some of the hole that was left in the line-up, finished with one of the greatest hitting performances ever by a second basemen: .331, 37 HR, 141 RBI (1,000,000 steroids).

Those were just two of many bright stars. The Mariners ironically hosted the All-Star Game that year as well, in which they boasted 8 players. The AL won 4-1, with Mariners pitchers Freddy Garcia and Kaz Sasaki earning the win and save, respectively.

It is difficult to put the level of Mariners dominance in 2001 into perspective. At the all-star break, for example, they were 63-24. That is an insane record.

Now let’s frame that differently: they had a 19-game lead in their division. NINETEEN GAMES. Their performance was a level of dominance that cannot exactly be quantified – it was simply dominance that was sustained from April to September.

No team-wide records set. A few individual feats here and there – the aforementioned Ichiro MVP… and Rookie of the Year… and AL Batting Champion… and Stolen Base Leader. Freddy Garcia also had the lowest ERA in the AL, so it wasn’t just an offensive onslaught (yes it was. His ERA was 3.05 – a perfect product of the Steroid Era. A 3.05 ain’t going to cut it these days). Crazy-ass Lou Piniella also added a Coach of the Year award to his resume, but that is easy when your team wins 116 games. Hell, even the O.G. DH, Edgar Martinez, who was the man before David Ortiz, if you can remember that time and place, hit .306 with 116 RBIs as a 38-year old. Everyone produced. Remember Mike Cameron, that throw-in in the Griffey trade? Well he threw in a nice 25 HR, 110 RBI performance as well.

But nothing to show for it.

The Mariners ran to Game Five with the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS, before knocking them off, only to run into the damn New York Yankees. Two years in a row it would be these two teams battling it out for a spot in the World Series. Man, after writing this I hate the 90s-00s New York Yankees even more. Not only did they ruin my Red Sox-worshipping life but look what they did to the lowly Seattle Mariners. Jesus, man. The Yankees took the series 4-1, with Andy Pettitte earning 2 wins.

The Yankees then lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks to halt a back-to-back-to-back effort. And no team has come close to 116 wins yet. The Cardinals won 105 in 2004. GUESS WHO THEY LOST TO IN THE WORLD SERIES?

Also, if you have made it this far into the piece, congratulations. 1250 words on a team I don’t follow very closely. Here is a nugget for you – isn’t it just sweet, poetic justice that the team that could ruin Golden State’s Mariners-type run through the regular season would be the basketball team that actually left Seattle? Man, when it rains, it pours in Seattle. Sorry, guys.

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