Monday, May 16, 2011

The Great Debate: 5/16

Welcome to the May 16th edition of the Great Debate. Today, Andrew Leff and I discuss some of the most interesting sports topics of the day. Today, we talk about Phoenix Suns President Rick Welts' startling revelation, the fate of the two NBA Playoff games last night, and whether one MLB squad of aging stars has finally been shown the door. Hit the jump for the discussion!

Suns General Manager Comes Out

Josh: Phoenix Suns President and CEO Rick Welts came out yesterday as being gay, the first major men's sports owner/CEO to come out of the closet, and the first person involved in major men's sports to come out while still actively involved. I think this could be great for gays in sports, as it's someone who is involved but not too intimately--there have always been whispers of not wanting gays in showers, and while that might be ridiculous, this gives the gay community a legitimate stepping stone to inclusion in sports.

Andrew: I was most heartened to hear the reaction of Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry: "To me, what does it matter? I know he's great at his job; he's very organized and he does a brilliant job. To me, [his sexuality] is irrelevant." Hopefully more executives, coaches, and players share Gentry's sentiment, and the game of basketball is stronger for this happening. However, I'm not sure that a President/CEO coming out of the closet is really the huge stepping stone that many think it is. In the end, the professional locker room is an incredibly macho place, and until an active player feels comfortable enough to come out of the closet, there will still be significant anti-gay sentiment in sports.

Josh: What will be interesting is if any players do come out in the next few weeks, and how that would then be handled. You could combine this story with that of Sean Avery's agent, who came out after Avery showed his support for gay marriage by saying he thought it was wrong. Not that gay rights have reached the point of civil rights or women's rights, but sports is still quite far behind when it comes to homosexuality, and the fact that this is even a story is fairly sad in itself.

Andrew: As more and more stories about homosexuality in men's sports start to come out, hopefully the culture really will begin to change. Men's sports is WAY behind women's sports in terms of accepting homosexuality, as Sheryl Swoopes--arguably the best female basketball player of all time--came out of the closet in 2005 with relatively little fanfare. Imagine if an all-time great in men's sports came out of the closet. That could be the momentous event that might have a chance of changing things for the better in the long-run.

Oklahoma City Beats Memphis in Game 7

Andrew: In the first Game Seven of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, the Thunder beat down on the Grizzlies for 48 minutes, outscoring them in all four quarters last night in OKC. Kevin Durant scored 39, which was more than Memphis' top two scorers (Zach Randolph and Mike Conley) had combined. Dallas has home court advantage and Dirk Nowitzki, so I still think they should be favored going into the Western Conference Finals. But after yesterday's impressive performance, it looks like the Thunder have a chance to make some noise--and possibly even do some damage--in the next round.

Josh: The problem I worry about for the Thunder is that while both of these teams are inexperienced (in terms of winning championships), the Mavs have much more NBA experience on their roster, not to mention rest. That series with the Grizzlies turned out to be much tougher than the Thunder would have thought, and they had to put in a lot of energy just to win that series in seven. The Mavs were able to do away with the Lakers in four games, including a laugher of a fourth, and have had time to study both the Grizzlies and Thunder in preparation for the conference finals.

Andrew: I agree that the Mavs should end up advancing to the NBA Finals, but I do not think it will be easy. Kevin Durant is too good a player to be shut down by Dallas for four full games. Yes, I know the Mavericks made Kobe look old, but that's because he is old. Durant, on the other hand, is just 23--his one-on-one skills have not diminished in the same way Kobe's have, meaning Durant has the talent to carry his team to at least one victory in this series.

Josh: Oh it definitely won't be a sweep. This one might actually go the distance as well, depending on how well Durant's supporting cast plays--Serge Ibaka, I think, might have quite a bit to do with how well OK City does. That was such a great Thunder/Grizzlies series, though, I think the Thunder might have used up all of their energy. Speaking of used-up emotional energy....

Chicago Beats Miami by 21 in Game One

Josh: Wow, I didn't see that one coming. Did Miami really exhaust all their energy in getting past the Celtics in the last series? I didn't think that Derrick Rose had the talent around him to beat the Heat, and certainly not to send them into submission like Chicago managed to do over the last 20+ minutes of the game. I really wonder how Miami is going to come out in Game Two--if they come out flat, they could find themselves in a bigger hole than 2-0 emotionally heading back to Miami.

Andrew: Though the margin of victory was huge in this game, it really seems like part of a pattern established during the regular season meetings between the Bulls and the Heat. In all three regular season contests, the Bulls won by four points or fewer. In addition, in all three games the Bulls outscored Miami by at least eight points in the second half. The Bulls had never won by anywhere near 24 against the Heat this season, but they did have a history of second half dominance, which has carried into the postseason.

Josh: Looks like the Heat might have been looking ahead to the wrong team. Derrick Rose is a better player than any individual the Celtics have, and he makes that Bulls roster so much better than the sum of its' parts. Not that Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, and Luol Deng aren't good players, but it's Rose that drives the car and creates that offense. I would have thought that Wade, James + Co would cancel that out, but not for the first game...I really don't know if the Heat will be able to win any trophies this year.

Andrew: I originally said that the Heat wouldn't win for at least two years because they would struggle to beat squads (like the Bulls) that actually play like a team. The Celtics are getting old, but the Bulls are young, they're athletic, and they can keep up with Wade and LeBron on both ends of the court. Erik Spoelstra is a good coach, though, and his midseason adjustments helped the Heat have a great regular season. Maybe he can do the same thing in this series.

Red Sox Sweep the Yankees in New York

Andrew: Last night, the Boston Red Sox completed a three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium and pulled within a game of their arch rivals in the AL East. Regardless of the Jorge Posada drama, the Yankees looked old in this series. They made crucial errors (A-Rod), couldn't get big hits (Jeter), and got smacked around in the bullpen (Joba). Now, after a 2-10 start, the Bo Sox are back to .500, while the Yanks have lost five in a row.

Josh: The Yankees are struggling, big-time, and this was a huge win by the Red Sox. Not only did they get back to an even record, but they did it by sweeping the Yankees on the road. It's still only May, so it's tough to say how much impact this will have in four months, but there is a clear message as to the current pecking order in the AL East. And, now that the Blue Jays and Orioles are at the very least competitive, the Yankees really need to get their ship together and quick.

Andrew: Despite Jeter and Posada struggling, the biggest concern for the Yankees right now is actually Alex Rodriguez. He's hitting a disappointing .250 on the season, and his .805 OPS is 151 points below his career average. In fact, that would be A-Rod's worst OPS ever for a full season if 2011 ended today. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Rodriguez is moving in the wrong direction, hitting just .200 in May with 14 strikeouts compared to just 11 hits. If A-Rod doesn't turn it around, the Yankees will be in big trouble.

Josh: The Yankees seem to have gotten very old very quickly. I'm amazed Mariano Rivera is having as good a season as he is, at 41 years of age. However, you can't rely on a rotation that includes Bartolo Colon (2-2, 3.74) and Freddy Garcia (2-3, 3.22) for an entire season...right? I just can't see New York making the playoffs, not out of that division.

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