Ricky Rubio Might Consider Avoiding Jim Nantz

Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype.com links up an interview with Ricky Rubio teammate Pete Mickeal in the True Hoop blog, The Painted Area.

Ricky Rubio

Mickeal plays with Rubio in Spain and talked about the rapturous reax to The Shag:

Q: On your blog on HoopsHype, you mentioned that you call him “Rock Star”. What’s the craziest scene of fans interacting with Ricky Rubio that you’ve seen in Spain?

Mickeal: Well, he’s got the long, bushy hair and he wears his shorts down… down low (laughs) – and the Rock Star thing came in our first game of the year. We played a team in Galicia, a northern part of Spain, and I saw two girls actually… I mean… I mean… whoa… I don’t know if they passed out, but it was very close to that. I mean, it was unbelievable. I just couldn’t believe it.

Yes, yes? Go on … ?

There were people when we opened the door to come out of our hotel room, and they were already there on the floor. We couldn’t even go to the elevator because they were waiting to see him. And I’ve seen girls… this girl’s face was so red, and she broke down, on the ground. On the ground! Like, two of them – they broke down on the ground. It was unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like that in basketball.

Sounds more like the Virgin Mary sighting in a Guadalajara grilled cheese last week.

Next, the interviewer, who shall remain nameless, channels his inner Jim Nantz.

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Speed Read: Mo Saves #500 As Mets Melt Again

Back in April of 1996, Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly said of Mariano Rivera: “That guy, he should be in a higher league. Ban him from baseball. He should be illegal.” At the time, Rivera had zero Major League saves and the Mets and Yankees had never played each other in a game that counted. Last night, Mo earned his 500th career save in a 4-2 win over the Mets, and it will be just as memorable for what he did at the plate than what he did on the mound.

Mariano Rivera

Rivera came in to pitch in the 8th inning last night with the Yankees clinging to a 3-2 lead and Met runner in scoring position. After striking out Omir Santos, the Yankee lineup ended up getting to Rivera’s spot in the order. And Mo did something he had never ever done in his Major League career — reach base. Not only that, he earned an RBI for his bases-loaded walk by Francisco Rodriguez.

Earlier in the inning, the Yankees had engaged in some shenangians, sending Francisco Cervelli to the on-deck circle for Rivera when Derek Jeter was up with runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs. This led to maybe the only time in history in which Steve Phillips and Joe Morgan have made tons of sense. There’s no way Rivera’s coming out of the game, with the Yankees leading 3-2, yet Jerry Manuel initially chose to have K-Rod pitch to Jeter with a base open. Knowing, mind you, that there was a 0% chance that Joe Girardi would lift Rivera for a pinch-hitter. Morgan and Phillips stopped just short of calling Manuel a moron for throwing Jeter a strike on the first pitch. After two balls out of the zone, the Mets finally gave Jeter the free pass. Rivera, of course, strolled to the plate, and was promptly walked (after he fought off a tough 2-2 pitch).

Rivera is still #2 all-time in saves to Trevor Hoffman, but will go down in history as the best closer ever because of his ridiculous 0.77 ERA (in 117+ innings) and 34 saves in the postseason. Plus, he’s now the only closer in MLB history with 500 saves who has been walked by another pitcher (Hoffman has no walks in 35 plate appearances).

It’s only fitting that the Mets were instrumental in all of this, as they keep finding new and interesting ways to fail against their cross-town rivals.

Luis Castillo

Speaking of fail, a little league game broke out in Arizona yesterday when the D-Backs hosted the Angels. Not only did Gary Matthews pull of a straight steal of home (which the media apparently thinks isn’t as “scrappy” as Jacoby Ellsbury doing it), but Arizona’s defense in the top of the fifth inning would’ve shamed Morris Buttermaker.

Diamondbacks fan

Let us count the ways:

1) Shortstop Stephen Drew lobbed a perfect strike to first baseman Mark Reynolds on a routine grounder. And Reynolds dropped the ball. Just dropped it. It was so bad, it actively looked like he was either trying to drop the ball or had never played baseball in his life.

2) Maicer Izturis lined a shot directly to right fielder Justin Upton. This ball also had the gall to hit Upton right in the glove, and he too made a complete mess out of it, as it bounded away from him and rolled to the wall.

3) The next batter, Bobby Abreu hit a ground ball directly at second baseman Felipe Lopez, who fielded the ball and threw him out. Unfortunately, the ball Lopez fielded was imaginary and the actual ball was somewhere in right-center.

This disaster came just one day after Arizona played a bunt by Erick Aybar into a t-ball home run (courtesy of two throwing errors on the same play). Is it any wonder the D-Backs are 30-46? Weren’t they one of the rising teams in baseball a couple of years ago?

Diamondbacks fan

By now, you’ve surely heard about the big soccer game yesterday, in which the Americans lost a heartbreaker to Brazil in the final of a goofy tournament that seemed to exist mostly to see if South Africa could host the World Cup next year without anyone dying. And, by all accounts, things went pretty well there other than the airhorns that the locals blew non-stop for the duration of every game (FIFA went as far as to try and temper the outcry by writing an article explaining how important making a horrible noise for two straight hours is to the South African people). Oh, and there was also the whole thing with the hookers and the Egyptians. But other than that, everything was great.

And everything was looking really great for the U.S., which came back from near-certain elimination in the group stage of the Confederations Cup to shock Spain in the semis and take a 2-0 halftime lead over Brazil in the final. And while the Americans deserved the early lead, the Brazilians were clearly the better team over the course of 90 minutes, outshooting the U.S. 31-9. It was only a matter of time before they found the back of the net, and they beat Tim Howard three times in the second half to take the title.

Brazil

The NEW YORK TIMES says that U.S. soccer narrowly missed a “moment” it needed to gain the sport traction in this country again. While the run to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals was gripping, the games were played in the middle of the night and the Americans came up short in the one game everyone finally tuned into (the quarterfinal loss to Germany). Likewise, most casual fans missed the huge win over Spain on Wednesday, but were glued to the screen as Brazil stormed back to crush our dreams once again on Sunday.

Still, the U.S. soccer program is in better shape now than it has ever been, but if the sport is really going to take the next step in this country (if that can actually ever happen), they can’t afford to have a weak showing on the return trip to South Africa next summer.

US soccer

• The single-A California League is known as the place where pitchers’ ERAs go to die. This is especially true in the wind-blown desert of Victorville, where the High Desert Mavericks scored 18 runs last night in a home game against the Lake Elsinore Storm. Oh, and they lost by 15 runs.

You read that right. The Storm scored 22 runs in the first five innings, then added 11 more in the last two, and beat High Desert 33-18. The game lasted 4 hours and 10 minutes and was played in 100-degree heat. There were 10 home runs hit, and Lake Elsinore’s starting pitcher gave up 11 runs and would’ve earned the win if his manager hadn’t lifted him with 2 outs in the fifth inning and his team leading by 11 runs. Lake Elsinore picked up 32 hits while the Mavericks had 26. Two of those hits were by outfielder James McOwen, a lightly-regarded prospect who extended his hitting streak to a league-record 36 games.

• The CHICAGO TRIBUNE’s Phil Rogers has a mean case of sports columnist hyperbole syndrome, suggesting that the the Cubs should waive Carlos Zambrano because they’ll never win anything with him on the team. That may be true, but of course they’ll be further away from winning anything without him, because, you know, he’s a good pitcher.

• A teenager is being congratulated for driving like three times the speed limit in New Hamsphire.

Free Shawn Estes!

• TNT’s play-by-play man for NASCAR was suspended from yesterday’s broadcast for a “loud and public confrontation” that took place at his hotel the other night. Nobody in the booth mentioned their missing colleague, Bill Weber.

Ricky Rubio is now faced with the harrowing dilemma of whether to live in Minnesota or Turkey.

• Hey, when did Dennis Rodman become a Laker fan? (photo courtesy of J.E. Skeets)

scary Laker girl

• Hey, things are looking up, Detroit — Marian Hossa probably isn’t coming back, so you can go back to winning Stanley Cups now.

• The sock-puppet Stephen A. Smith, who is sort of the Triumph the Insult Comic Dog of the NBA Draft, made his final appearance at the Draft on Thursday. I will have a cheez doodle in his honor.

• BLACK VOICES says Serena Williams is writing a TV pilot inspired by both “Sex and the City” and “Family Guy.”  Just to warn you, Serena, the Sarah Jessica Parker-looks-like-a-horse joke is kind of a tired bit now.

• Scottish star Andy Murray is drawing record crowds to see him play at Wimbledon this year, and he’s up against Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round today. And if you tune in, you might want to keep your eyes peeled for Murray’s girlfriend, Kim Sears:

Kim Sears

Kim Sears

Has America’s performance in the Confederations Cup made you more interested in watching the World Cup next summer?

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Speed Read: Is Rubio Dissing Wolves For Europe?

The Clippers’ selection of Blake Griffin with the first pick in the NBA Draft last night was a forgone conclusion, so most of the draft drama was centered around Spanish point guard sensation Ricky Rubio. Over the past couple of weeks, Rubio became one of the most fascinating prospects in draft history — he doesn’t want to play in a small market or a cold city, his agent didn’t let him work out against other humans (which led to the strange one-on-none workout in Sacramento), he still has a huge buyout in his European contract, and nobody can really agree about how good he really is (he could be the next Steve Nash or the next Dan Dickau, and neither scenario would be surprising).

Ricky Rubio

His uncertain status was too much for OKC and Sacramento to put up with, to the point that the Kings decided they’d rather deal with the guy who was driving when his cousin shot someone. The Wolves were thrilled when he fell to them at #5, but because we all know that nothing good can happen to Minnesota, fans in the great white north might want to hold off on burning that Bassy Telfair jersey: Ricky’s dad is already telling people that he’s now thinking about staying in Europe for another year or two.

In other words, Ricky seems to be rejecting Minneapolis as his future home. Any threat to not come to the NBA isn’t really financial leverage, since his contract is slotted based on his position in the draft. But he could be pulling this stunt to try and force a trade to a city that’s more to his liking, such as New York. He might also be wondering (like a lot of other people) why the Wolves took another point guard (Johnny Flynn) with the #6 pick. Here’s what Mr. Rubio told MARCA (via FANHOUSE):

“We are going to speak with the [staff] of Minnesota and see what’s happening, because, in some hours, we may be in Minnesota or in another place.”

Ricky Rubio

He’s either expressing confusion over the Wolves’ intentions of keeping his son, or he’s basically telling them they better trade because there’s no way Ricky’s coming to play there.

After being drafted, ESPN’s Mark Jones asked Ricky to compare his game to that of a current NBA player. To which he simply replied: “I’m Ricky Rubio” (to the amusement of the MSG crowd). Scroll to the 3:20 mark of this video:

Surely I’m not the only person who thought of this when I saw the interview:

After Minnesota picked Flynn, it looked like Stephen Curry might fall to the Knicks, and it was no secret that he wanted to call MSG his home. But the Warriors didn’t get the memo and picked him, sending the Knicks fans on hand into depressed hysterics. It was only fitting that the boos rained down on Jordan Hill, who had no chance to win over the New York crowd in such a short period of time. At least he’s probably better than Renaldo Balkman.

The other strange development of the night was Brandon Jennings‘ last-minute decision to not attend the draft at the advice of his agent, who seemed uneasy about letting his client end up like Rashard Lewis, who famously slid way down the draft board while TV cameras watched his every emotion. Well, as it turns out, Jennings went 10th to the Bucks, then decided to show up a few picks later to get his photo op with David Stern. Now, if Jennings turns out anything like Lewis, he wouldn’t have cared when he was drafted.

HOOPSHYPE has a good recap of the draft up, and Kings fans are going to need to steer clear of hairdryers and bathtubs after reading that they’ve got the next Larry Hughes on their hands. The suit of the night, without a doubt, belonged to James Harden:

James Harden

(Mustard suit + bowtie = smooth)

There were some other things going on in the sports world last night, including the resolution to one of the stupidest athlete spats in recent memory. With the Yankees heading to Queens for a weekend series with the Mets, the tensions between Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Bruney once again became back page news. But the NY DAILY NEWS reports that it was all settled last week, when Bruney sent a clubhouse attendant over the Mets clubhouse to apologize to K-Rod on his behalf. I was accused of some anti-Yankee bias in my original post about this matter, but really, c’mon, sending an attendant to apologize for you? How lame is that? I would’ve loved to see that exchange at K-Rod’s locker.

Brian Bruney

A lot of major league pitchers struggle, and a lot are sent to the minors to work through their troubles. But few actually go to their team and ask to be sent down, like the Pirates’ Ian Snell has done. Snell is 2-8 this year with a 5.36 ERA and awful 1.624 WHIP. He had actually been throwing better as of late, but said he thought it was best for the team to be sent down because he was bringing too much negativity to the team. I can’t decide if this is an alarming lack of confidence and perseverance on Snell’s part or a refreshing selfless decision done in the interest of helping his team and his own career. Regardless, Snell has actually been slightly better this year than last, when he had a 5.42 ERA and even more god-awful 1.765 WHIP, and he threw a full slate of 31 starts. Here’s what Snell told the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE’s Dejan Kovacevic:

“I don’t want to point fingers and make excuses. I just made a better decision for myself, my career and my life.” I asked what he needs to do: “Nothing. You guys don’t understand it unless you played baseball. You don’t understand it, and the people at home don’t understand it. I’m just going down there, get my thoughts together and do well.”

I think he just needs a hug, not a stint in AAA.

Before we get to today’s links, I feel like taking a few minutes to watch the “Smooth Criminal” video again. There’s no doubt that Michael Jackson was a weird dude, and possibly a perv on such a level that he doesn’t deserve our grief. But is it so bad to spend a day remembering why we loved the guy? All that other stuff will come back around soon enough.

Now let’s get on with those links:

• Ever wonder who that lady is who gives the draft picks their hat before they walk over to meet David Stern? Wonder no more.

Darko Milicic has been freed by the Grizzlies…and is going to the Knicks in a swap for Quentin Richardson. It’s crazy to think that Darko’s still just 24 years old, and Mike D’Antoni thinks he can resurrect Darko’s career (well, his career was never really alive).

• First, the Dolphins sold their stadium naming rights to Jimmy Buffett, and now Gloria Estefan has bought a piece of the team. I’m told there are currently no plans to start calling the team the “Sound Machine.”

• The Portland Trail Blazers are going to host a preseason game at Seattle’s Key Arena in October. As if Seattle fans needed more reasons to hate the Blazers.

Vijay Singh attempted to bail accused swindler Allen Stanford out of jail, but was told he couldn’t because he isn’t an American, according to CNBC’s Darren Rovell. This is like the first time I’ve ever heard about Vijay being a really generous guy, and it’s to someone who probably stole a bunch of money from him.

• According to this AFP story, “Gay clocks wind-aided 9.75″ at the US Track and Field Championships. Miss California is unimpressed.

• Admitted PED user Alex Rodriguez tied current Yankee advisor Reggie Jackson on the all-time homer list last night, which Reggie isn’t exactly happy about. Awwwkwaaard.

Frank Thomas says he’s “close” to retiring, which will be news to the one person in the universe who doesn’t already think that Frank Thomas is retired. That person being Frank Thomas, of course.

• A man has now been arrested in connection with Karen Sypher’s plan to extort cash from Rick Pitino. Why was Lester Goetzinger so willing to help out in this scheme? Were sexual favors involved or something? Oh, actually, they were.

• Wimbledon’s in full swing, and a rising star you might want to keep an eye on (or both your eyes on, really) is Caroline Wozniacki out of Denmark. She’s the #9 seed and has advanced to the third round. Here she is enjoying some time off the court:

Caroline Wozniacki

And looking good on the court:

Caroline Wozniacki

Who’s going to be the bigger NBA star?

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Brandon Jennings Says Ricky Rubio Is “All Hype”

If there’s one sport most closely connected with the art of trash-talking, without a doubt, it’s basketball. Cripes, the And 1 Tour gives a guy a microphone and puts him on the court to yap at the players. So it’s frustrating to see the David Stern NBA now populated by mediabots, personified best by notorious hothead Rasheed Wallace’s epic “Both teams played hard” interview.

Eating Ball
(To Jennings’ credit, he’s just eating the basketball. That’s incredibly poor technique.)

Fortunately for all of us, Brandon Jennings has not been drafted by an NBA team, so nobody has beaten the will to speak candidly out of him yet. Jennings, already something of an iconoclast for his decision to spend his year between high school and the NBA in Europe rather than in college, was asked by the Sacramento media about fellow lottery prospect and European Ricky Rubio and how he compares. The result, as seen on the videos at the KINGS BLOG of the SACRAMENTO BEE, was good, old-fashioned playground smack talk:

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Does Anyone Want the Top Pick in the NBA Draft?

Ricky Rubio and his agent, Dan Fegan, have started applying the pressure on NBA teams to ensure he ends up in the best possible media market. Because he still has to spend his own cash to get out of his Spanish contract, he has the leverage to return to Europe if the “wrong” team drafts him.

Memphis Grizzlies

(Why would anyone not want to play in Memphis?)

Therefore, Memphis and OKC can just draft around him. Instead, Fegan (who failed to stop Milwaukee from drafting Yi Jianlian but got him moved to the NYC market eventually) wants his client in L.A. or Sacramento to get at that California cash.  Sacramento drafts fourth, but haven’t the Clippers promised to take Blake Griffin with the first pick? Rubio couldn’t end up in L.A. still, could he?

He could, as it turns out.

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Speed Read: Clippers’ Balls Have Dropped Again

The Los Angeles Clippers won the most favored martyr award last night in the NBA Draft Lottery and, with it, the top pick in the 2009 NBA Draft next month (likely to be Blake Griffin). The Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder now follow, leaving the Grizzlies to pretend Mike Conley, Jr. is the answer to anything but “Name one theoretically famous Junior” and draft Hasheem Thabeet.

Michael Olowokandi

Oklahoma City, your Ricky Rubio awaits. (Ricky will love the fried bologna sammich at Toby Keith’s I Love This Restaurant a block away from the arena.) A staff containing Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, Rubio, and your dear departed grandmother should be capable of 50 wins in two years. If you find it less ghoulish, we’ll refer to your passed loved one as Nenad Krstic. Same mobility, anyway.

(By the way, please send your love to Sacramento tonight as they had the league’s worst record and washed out with the fourth pick.  And you thought living in Sacramento was punishment enough.)

Sacramento Kings Flip Off The Camera

Your intrepid correspondent pulled into a local sports bar in the Phoenix area just thirty minutes before the NBA Draft Lottery truly started (which was, of course, thirty minutes after it officially kicked off).  That will be the best way to take the pulse of the community regarding the first lottery draft pick for the Phoenix Suns likely to play for the team since Amare Stoudemire, your correspondent said to himself rather self-consciously.

It can be officially reported that the patient is dead; there was no pulse in the greater Phoenix community regarding the draft lottery.  The normally-popular bar was half-empty and the televisions kept being turned from the NBA lottery to practically any other sport.  In fact, the only person to keep half an eye on the proceedings was Dan Majerle’s brother.

Surely, much of the passivity came from having such a slim chance at a top-three pick, but the collected crowd seemed much more interested in the Western Conference Finals for the NBA and NHL.  They chose wisely as the Denver Nuggets couldn’t hold their late lead  against the Los Angeles Lakers and therefore provided another thrilling finish, a 105-103 Lakers victory to kick off the NBA edition of the Western Conference Finals.

George Karl of the Denver Nuggets

Also, game 2 of the NHL edition ended in the first overtime with a 3-2 Detroit Red Wings victory over the Chicago Blackhawks to extend the series lead to 2-0. The ‘Hawks could not stop giving up the puck in the most exposed fashion possible, leading to two breakaway goals, including the three-on-one clincher.  You’d think a battle between a dinosaur and a human would turn out differently.

Chicago Blackhawks Detroit Red Wings

(The bar didn’t care for that result; Arizonans are either transplanted Colorado residents or former Illinoisans.  No love lost for Detroit from either quarter.)

On the other hand, the true locals were left to stew yesterday over news that a federal bankruptcy judge couldn’t bring the NHL or the former and future owners of the Phoenix Coyotes together on a deal regarding the sale of the team and a possible move back to Canada. Instead, he sent both sides into mediation and told them to hash it out themselves.

Jobing.com Arena Phoenix Coyotes

Of course, the NHL couldn’t resist putting gun to skate during yesterday’s proceedings.  For starters, the lawyer for the city of Glendale, AZ, had to admit that he’s never been to a Coyotes game.  Then the judge said late in the day, “The NHL is like a dog chasing a car. The question is, ‘What do you do if you catch it?’”  Bury it in Arizona, perhaps?

The relocation hearing in late June won’t answer the question, either; multiple rounds of appeals will surely follow if all sides can’t talk it out.  It all adds up to at least a month of indecision, misdirection, and public proclamations.  It’s not unlike the buildup to the NBA Draft, really.

When Arizonans aren’t paying attention to hockey mirages or 14th picks or UFOs in 2009, they might be taking in this hail of bullet points:

Where should the Phoenix Coyotes end up?

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