Typically this is the most boring part of the sports world’s calendar year. There’s no football to speak of, hockey and basketball are also in offseason mode and baseball still has another month or so before the games really matter. And yet, the sports pages are absolutely packed with content these days.
For starters there was Tiger Woods winning his own tournament in D.C. last week and Andy Roddick showing more in defeat at Wimbledon than in any victory throughout his career. There’s also free agency for the NBA and NHL, which has been entertaining in a fantasy football kind of way.
You’ve got the New York Rangers doing what they do best – namely overpaying for a player whose best days came while wearing another uniform (this year’s honors go to forward Marian Gaborik, who will earn $7.5 million a year for the next five seasons). What’s even funnier is that the Rangers were only able to acquire Gaborik after trading away Scott Gomez to Montreal, who was the happily overpaid guy just two seasons ago. No need in learning from the past, right?
In other Marian news, the Chicago Blackhawks broke the bank to add forward Marian Hossa to their young and talented roster. The 30-year-old forward, who is best known as the guy who has been on the losing side of the last two Stanley Cup finals (once with Pittsburgh and once with Detroit), signed a staggering 12-year deal worth more than $5 million per season. I guess the Blackhawks are serious about winning their first championship since 1961 – even if it means locking up a guy until he’s 42 years old.
And while those signings have been enjoyable, they’re nothing compared to what’s going on in the NBA. Shaq is now in Cleveland. Vince Carter is in Orlando. Rasheed Wallace (and his baskets of crazy) now resides in Boston. Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva were lured to Detroit. Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess can now call San Antonio home. Trevor Ariza and Ron Artest swapped places in Los Angeles and Houston. Shawn Marion is headed to Dallas. Things are so wacky in the world of professional basketball that Allen Iverson is actually talking about playing for the woeful Memphis Grizzlies next season.
So basically, the newest NBA trend is the rich get richer.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James and spare parts, were already among the league’s elite. Now they’ve brought in a highly motivated Shaquille O’Neal, who will happily play sidekick for the first time in his life in hopes of winning a fifth NBA ring before calling it quits.
In Boston, the Celtics will make one final run at another championship by adding ‘Sheed to the talented trio of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Sure, Wallace is a headcase. But honestly, there’s not another player in the league he respects more than Garnett, and when his head is in the game, Wallace is still a difference maker.
Having four go-to guys on the floor at once will make it tough for most teams to compete with Boston. One team that can match up nicely though is San Antonio, who added Jefferson and McDyess to go with the already-proven rotation of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. If the Celtics and Spurs remain healthy (and that’s not guaranteed, by any means), they’ll probably square off in the finals next season.
Meanwhile, the two teams who did battle in this season’s finals – the Lakers and Magic – have seen changes as well. Kobe Bryant will now have to adjust to Artest as opposed to Ariza, who was absolutely instrumental in seeing L.A. return to glory. Whether or not Artest is an actual upgrade is yet to be seen. Same goes for Carter with Orlando, who will be asked to replace Hedo Turkoglu (even though they have completely different skill sets). No one said either team improved – that remains to be seen – but at least they’ll be entertaining.
And finally, there’s this whole Steve McNair mess. I’m going to stay away from it for the most part, because really, that’s not my type of story. I’m not going to judge the man for cheating on his wife or the decisions he made. That was his choice and it doesn’t have anything to do with you, me or anyone outside of the McNair family.
But if nothing else, here’s hoping that this strikes home with today’s generation of millionaire athletes/entertainers/etc. – regardless of your marital status, running around and getting caught up with girls half your age (i.e. – those who are too young and immature to know better) is a recipe for disaster. While there’s plenty of juicy stuff to dissect in the sports pages these days, that’s the kind of news I’d gladly leave to other sections of the newspaper.
Brian Murphy is an award-winning sportswriter who also goes by the name Homer McFanboy. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.