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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

D-Rose, D-Wade and Defense

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Frank: I told you a while back to wake me up when the NBA playoffs reached their final four, and now the alarm has rung.

Artie:
Chicago and Miami in the East, Dallas and Oklahoma City in the West. And along the way you've missed some pretty compelling basketball.

Frank:
Well, it's nice to see some teams other than the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs around this late. And your dream NBA Finals of the Bulls and Thunder, showcasing the amazing young Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant, is a possibility.

Artie:
I actually had two dreams. The first, just to spite David Stern, was a Memphis-Atlanta final because it would be a TV ratings disaster. Short of that, Bulls-Thunder would be great because of the young stars. But whatever happens, this has been a very interesting and exciting playoff season. And with the old standbys out, it'll be even better.

Frank:
The Lakers sure went out disgracefully—rolling over to give Dallas the sweep and finishing with those cheap shots by Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum.

Artie:
Everyone got on LeBron James for allegedly quitting on the Cavaliers in one of their playoff games. Odom did the same thing, shoving Dirk Nowitzki when he knew it would get him kicked out.

Frank:
So you're with the Bulls all the way against the Heat?

Artie:
I just can't get behind Miami because I have a feeling all those fair-weather Laker fans will latch onto that bandwagon now. But there is a little bit of an ache there because I love Dwyane Wade.

Frank:
Marquette's continuing gift to the NBA.

Artie:
I think he's been the best player in the game for the last three or four years. Every time you see D-Wade in a game, you see something phenomenal. But with all the hoopla about James and "The Decision" and Chris Bosh making it the Big Three, I just can't back Miami. It'll be fine with me if they win next year—if there is a next year for the NBA—but this time around I'm for the Bulls.

Frank:
They're certainly getting great reviews for their defense—which was much in evidence as they held Miami to 82 points and ran away with Game 1.

Artie:
It all comes from their coach, Tom Thibodeau. Defense was his specialty as Doc Rivers' assistant in Boston. Well-deserved it is that Thibodeau was named NBA Coach of the Year.

Frank:
So what're you predicting for the conference finals?

Artie:
Dallas in seven, Chicago in seven, and have a nice summer, LeBron.

One for the Home Team

Frank: The big NBA news around here last week was that Wisconsin's senior U.S. senator would become the full-time owner of the Bucks in about a year and a half.

Artie:
Herb Kohl's political retirement will be good in one sense because he's so committed to keeping the team here. So he should have more time to devote to working out some kind of a deal for a new arena.

Frank:
Which we have consistently said isn't necessary to fulfill the needs of Joe Fan, only the NBA's never-ending quest to wring more money out of rich people through bigger suites, exclusive seating, in-arena restaurants and the like.

Artie:
This sure ain't the time to ask Joe Fan, in his role as Joe Taxpayer, to finance a new arena for fat cats.

Frank: If Mr. Kohl wants to find a solution to the arena question, I have one: Write a check. He's the one with the dough.

Artie:
Maybe it'll happen. But I'm worried that Herb's full-time owner status might also get him more involved in basketball decisions. And I'm not sure that would be good for the team.

Meanwhile, On the Ice...

Frank: The NHL is also down to its final four, but I'll guess that, like me, you don't have much to say about that.

Artie:
True, but it won't stop me from predicting a Boston-Vancouver battle for the Stanley Cup.

Frank:
I have no rooting interest, but I'm sure I'll watch at least parts of the games if Mike Emrick is calling them. I think among all sports broadcasters, he's the absolute best at his particular sport.

Artie: I'll try to catch him in my channel-surfing.

Frank:
While we're on hockey, it's too bad the Admirals lost their game seven in the AHL second round. As you know from our visits to their games, they deliver a fine product for a lot less than NHL prices. Better luck next year!



The Crew's Two Faces

Frank: That was some weird finale to the Brewers' homestand, which I saw from the press box. One minute we were expecting a Zack Greinke no-hitter and the next the Brewers' 6-0 run lead was all but gone.

Artie:
Greinke's stuff was fantastic for four innings, but then he got a case of Dave Bush-itis!

Frank:
Anyway, the Brewers left town for the West Coast no longer looking up at the Pirates in the standings.

Artie: But still in their customary place of looking up at a couple of teams.

Frank: There's a Jekyll-Hyde thing going on with this team in terms of home and road performance. They left town 13-6 at Miller Park and 6-15 everywhere else.

Artie: And hitting over .300 at home, best in the majors, and a lousy .218 on the road. So the 5-1 homestand didn't quite balance the 2-8 road trip that came before.

Frank:
It could easily have been a 6-0 homestand.

Artie: Hey, you were at that last game against the Padres. Did Jeff Suppan come back to pitch in that eight-run inning?

Frank:
That game and the one last Monday brought up a sore point with me.

Artie: Proceed.

Frank:
In both games Ron Roenicke had LaTroy Hawkins pitch the seventh inning, and both times Hawkins went 1-2-3 with fewer than 15 pitches. But both times Roenicke switched for the eighth inning. Monday night Kameron Loe quickly gave up two hits and was bailed out by the fantastic Betancourt-Weeks double play. On Wednesday, Mitch Stetter, the situational left-hander, gave up a hit to a lefty and then the Padres lit up Loe and Mike McClendon.

Artie: And your point?

Frank:
It's not just Roenicke; every modern manager, it seems, operates this way. "I have to have a designated seventh-inning guy, an eighth-inning guy and a closer, and I have to use them just that way." But if the seventh-inning guy was effective and threw relatively few pitches, why change? The more pitchers you use, the better the chance one of them will be lousy that day.

Artie: The argument against that is something managers say all the time: "A reliever really needs to understand his role."

Frank:
His role? His role is to get people out. What, does the game change if it's not "your" inning? Would Hawkins have to throw it 65 feet in the eighth inning instead of 60 and a half? Would the other team get four outs?

Artie: You'd think so, sometimes.

Frank:
And when you're making the roles so specific and so restrictive—seventh inning, eighth inning, situational left-hander to face lefty hitters—aren't you also implying things that you think a guy CAN'T do?

Artie: I'm worried about what John Axford isn't doing as the closer—namely, getting "clean" 1-2-3 ninth innings. Stay ready, LaTroy!

Frank:
Actually, I was glad to see that Marco Estrada was allowed to pitch two innings Friday night and Sunday against the Pirates. Four innings, one hit, five strikeouts.

Artie: What? Did the Commies take over in the dugout?

Famous Last Words

Frank: I saw the quote of the year, maybe the quote of all time, from a baseball executive last week.

Artie: Gotta hear it!

Frank:
Jack Zduriencik, general manager of the Seattle Mariners, on releasing Milton Bradley: "The situation with Milton is that we determined he's not part of our future and not part of our present."

Artie:
If I had a nickel for every time I heard that line from some gal…

Frank:
Or words to that effect.

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