Princeton Times

Sports

February 23, 2013

Jeff's Sports Corner: Michael Jordan turns 50; NBA hits its All-Star break

PRINCETON — Hey, did you know Michael Jordan turned 50 on Sunday? It’s been really low-key with occasional mentions on ESPN.

Seriously, folks, presidents have had less hoopla (excuse the expression) than Jordan over a milestone birthday. At least, presidents don’t get 10-plus-minute blocks of newscasts, even on the 24/7 news channels, dedicated to their lives and impacts. Jordan got just that treatment on SportsCenter for the past two weeks, with seemingly every major figure who crossed paths with him commenting on his impact on the game of basketball.

I’m not disputing Jordan’s credentials with six NBA and one NCAA title(s), four MVPs, nine All-Defensive Team selections and two Olympic gold medals among them. I’m just tired of the hype over a no-longer-active athlete who hasn’t quite settled with himself that he’s no longer the star he once was.

He’s not a good team owner, and he failed as a front office man in Washington. His Hall of Fame speech attacked targets, such as Dean Smith, who couldn’t really defend themselves. He makes statements that he prefers Kobe Bryant over LeBron James, based on the number of championship rings won. Maybe, he’s got a point, but letting this year’s Lakers team fall apart such as it has, isn’t a good credential for Kobe, either.

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Speaking of the Lakers, one of the greatest team owners ever, Dr. Jerry Buss, passed away from kidney failure Monday at the age of 80. He bought the Lakers and other properties for $67.5 million ($16 million for the Lakers) in 1979 and turned it into a billion-dollar franchise. Along the way, the Lakers made the -playoffs all but two years during his tenure, winning 10 NBA titles in 16 finals appearances. He was high-profile socially, but let Jerry West and Mitch Kupchak run the show. He made the Hall of Fame in 2010.

Unfortunately, Dr. Buss didn’t pass on his ability to let the team professionals run the show to his son Jay. The younger Buss let Phil Jackson go, purged the organization of those close to Jackson, then made three coaching changes this year. , settling on Mike D’Antoni, whose system doesn’t fit the talent at hand. He also made the team older by acquiring Steve Nash, age 39, and Dwight Howard, 28 (he’s older than the man he replaced, Andrew Bynum), leading to the team’s struggles defensively. The Howard-Bynum deal only works for the Lakers because the latter hasn’t been able to play due to his injuries.

•••

Speaking of James, the Heat, due to his play, are playing as the team which won the title last year. His play has given Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade a boost as well. The 30-point, 60-percent shooting streak was really a sideshow.

The winningest team in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs, has played with relatively little publicity this year, despite clinching a winning season already. Gregg Popovich has guided the team through injuries to both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli.

The New York Knicks  are another old team, but have won to this point based on Carmelo Anthony having his best season to date and good success from three-point shooting range. Unlike the Lakers, their coach’s system is fitting the talents he has (Mike Woodson replaced D’Antoni in New York) and defense is emphasized.

The other New York team, the Brooklyn Nets, fired their coach, Avery Johnson, but instead of failing, they are succeeding to this point behind a good starting line-up.

The Boston Celtics weren’t doing much better than the Lakers before their point guard, Rajon Rondo, went down to a knee injury. Since then, they have been one of the hottest teams around, although a West Coast road trip may determine the course of the season.

The Indiana Pacers, behind Paul George and David West, lead the Central Division. They haven’t exactly gotten the publicity either, but the Heat definitely respects them.

The Los Angeles Clippers are finally at full strength and rate as the deepest team in the NBA. So far, Donald Sterling hasn’t meddled with the team.

•••

Finally, I see that Danica Patrick won the pole for the Daytona 500. The last winner of the 500 from the pole was Dale Jarrett in 2000, so she has long odds against her. It depends on how well she handles herself in the draft as to her finish.

I can be reached c/o Jeff’s Sports Corner, P.O. Box 1199, Princeton, WV, 24740. I can also be reached at delimartman@yahoo.com.

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