Wednesday, February 16, 2005The Morning Toast: All-Stars All The Time..
Steroids You Say? I'm Shocked!
Overrated manager Tony La Russa admits that he knew about Jose Canseco using steroids only a few days after denying that he knew anything. Yes, I'm shocked...I wonder if La Russa would lie about anyone else? Hmmm.
My favorite part of his statement (to be aired tonight on 60 Minutes II):
"I think it's fair to say that Major League Baseball could have been more hard-nosed about their approach, but it's more fair to say that even any effort that they made, or would have made, would have been rebuffed by the players association....Why does the players' association do things that is really not in the best interest of the game as a whole? They're really concerned with their constituents."
So he blames the players for him not coming clean. Right. I bet it had nothing to do with the simple fact that Oakland was winning a lot of ball games. La Russa is no different than anyone else involved in this mess. He's a self-serving liar, who looked the other way when he saw that steroids could help him win.
Speaking of self-serving liars, MLB's high chief was apparently warned by the FBI that many players were using illegal steroids in the 1990s.
"There's little question the use of steroids was very widespread in baseball," FBI Special Agent Greg Stejskal told the Daily News. "Major League Baseball in effect, they didn't sanction it, but they certainly looked the other way."
Surprisingly the league claims they never knew about the conversation with Stejskal. Less surprisingly, I don't believe the league.
The NBA's Big Show
The NBA is starting to reach its level again. The youth invasion that started in 1999 is finally matured and hit its prime. The younger stars are taking off like Amare Stoudamire and King James and even the older guys like Shaq are showing new signs of life.
So at this stage, I try to rate this year's All-Star team and compare it's worthiness to the 1993 All-Star teams, the deepest All-Star game in my existence. Just look at it. You had roughly 14 guys in their primes, plus a rookie Shaq and second-year pro Larry Johnson, who was the 1991-92 rookie of the year.
Not surprisingly it was a great game, a mixture of transition and set offenses. Even the coaches (Paul Westphal and Pat Riley) had great playoff runs that only came up short because that Jordan guy happened to be on the floor at the same time.
So let's examine the 2005 Western All-Stars, with my comments in italics. The east will go tomorrow.
*Kobe Bryant -- Not surprisingly, Kobe will play in this game at 80% because he can try to turn in into a way to upstage everyone in a state where he dealt with a rape trial. Kobe's definitely in his prime and when he's healthy, he's one of the best.
*Tracy McGrady -- T-Mac has had to do some good PR work because he left Orlando with a bad reputation due to his admittance of slacking off. T-Mac's prime should be as good as Kobe's but I have a weird feeling he's squandered some of it.
*Tim Duncan -- Total professional, class individual, class ballplayer. No one combines the forward-center skills like Duncan.
*Kevin Garnett -- A 7'1 small forward seems exciting on the surface but if he played a little bigger I think the T-Wolves would be a little better. Reigning MVP is as good as he'll get.
*Yao Ming -- I think Yao's best basketball is ahead of him. He and McGrady are starting to learn each other's traits. He's not physical or dominating like Shaq is but he has good awareness.
Ray Allen -- One of my favorite players is probably entering the latter stages of his career. He's still a marksman shooter and his pyschological games with Kobe Bryant have given me much joy.
Manu Ginobili -- One of the four Non-Americans on the West squad. Ginobili is a great idea of the "international" guard. He does several things well, nothing great but he's an all-around contributor.
Rashard Lewis -- At 25, Lewis is finding his game. He's actually been productive since his third year. He's never going to be the #1 option, but with Allen he's the #1.5 option on the Sonics. He's even starting to play a little defense. At 6'10, I'd love to see him averging eight rebounds a game.
Shawn Marion -- One of three Suns on the team and his reputation as a finisher has been enhanced by Steve Nash. He's got a lot more game than you think, averging 18.1 and 9.6 for a career. He's a solid defensive player when he's given the chance to play defense.
Steve Nash -- I expect you'll see Nash on the floor with Marion, Nowitzki and Amare at some point. Having a career year with his assists. Broken-down body probably has two more years of playing at a strong level. Should be a starter.
Dirk Nowitzki -- Larry Bird and Tom Chambers' child is having a career season (27.1 ppg). Probably should be starter as well. Unlike Garnett, Dirk is willing to get the tough buckets and I think the Mavericks have a better shot to win the West than people think.
Amare Stoudamire -- A little out of position as a center but he's a young buck so it doesn't matter. He's almost doubled his points output since his rookie season and he's shooting 57.3 percent from the floor.
So by my count there are six guys in their primes (Kobe, T-Mac, Duncan, KG, Dirk, Lewis) and three guys on the cusp (Amare, Yao, Marion), one super complimentary player (Ginobili) and two strong vets (Ray Allen, Nash).
This is going to be close.