San Antonio Spurs – A win for beautiful basketball

As unlikely as it may have seemed given their aging roster, the San Antonio Spurs are NBA Champions for 2013-2014.

The Spurs were able to take revenge on last year’s conquerors, the Miami Heat, winning game 5 and taking the Finals series 4-1.

The win will go down through the ages as one where beautiful basketball and team ethos triumphed over individual greatness collectively harnessed.  Not that the Spurs don’t have great individual players; they do, but the Heat are the team known best for it’s ‘big 3’ of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Patty Mills
Patty Mills with a huge game 5 (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

To be honest it’s always been more of a ‘big 1 + 2’, and that was never more evident than in game 5.  Despite the struggles of Wade and Bosh LeBron was brilliant with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists, yet the Spurs essentially had the game wrapped up with 5 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter when they took a 21 point lead on the back of an avalanche of 3 pointers from Australian Patty Mills and Argentinian Manu Ginobli, and a signature block on Wade from Brazilian center Tiago Splitter.

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Is Cadel Evans Australia’s most under-appreciated sportsman?

Cadel Evans failed last week.  Failed to win a cycling race he’d spent months dedicating himself to winning, failed to live up to his own expectations as he was left (not too far) behind by men more than 10 years his junior on some of the steeper climbs in world cycling.  Those were his own sentiments after 3 weeks of racing in the Giro d’Italia closed with the BMC former Tour de France winner finishing in 8th place, some 11 minutes behind eventual winner Columbian Nairo Quintana.  He was quick to praise his team and the work they had done in his service, but lamented that he’d failed to capitalize on it.

But failure is a relative term.  Prior to the last 10 years, or more accurately prior to the Cadel Evans era, Australian cycling had only ever had a handful of top 10 finishes in any of the 3 grand tours – the Giro, le Tour or the Vuelta a España – the Tour of Spain – all achieved by the same man, trailblazer Phil Anderson in the mid 80’s.
For an Aussie to finish 8th in one of the most hotly contested Tours of Italy for many years at any other time and by any other rider would have been considered a phenomenal performance and career highlight.  For Evans, it was failure.  That should tell us plenty about the unassuming former mountain biker from Barwon Heads via the Northern Territory and New South Wales, who these days spends much of his time with his family in Switzerland.

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Collateral Damage : The mess left behind by Andrew Demetriou & David Evans

As he watched the packed media conference off camera on February 5th 2013, no doubt concerned for where the game he had fostered as CEO of the AFL for 10 years was about to head; Andrew Demetriou would have been very familiar with the man explaining to the cameras his decision to ask the AFL and ASADA to investigate his club – and not just because he was the Chairman of Essendon.

David Evans and Demetriou go back you see.  Way back.

 

When Demetriou made the move from the AFL Players Association to the AFL 15 or so years ago it was Evans’ late father Ron, himself a former Essendon Football Club President and then Chairman of the AFL, who took the former Kangaroo and Hawk under his wing and mentored him in his eventual role as CEO of the AFL.   It was only natural that Demetriou would cross paths with Ron’s son David, a rising businessman of similar age.

When David decided to follow in his fathers footsteps in 2009 and take over the leadership at Essendon it was Demetriou who supported him, sending him a “very nice letter of congratulations“.
Demetriou had 2 years earlier spoken warmly at the funeral of Evans Sr, a mark of his closeness to the man and Evans family.

So when Demetriou was briefed in late January 2013 by the Australian Crime Commission on the intelligence that had been gathered about possible doping at an AFL club;  while rumors had been swirling for some time about Essendon’s supplements program run by Stephen Dank the previous season; it probably didn’t take Einstein to figure out that the two should have a chat.

What we know for sure is that chat came via phone on the night of February 4 while Evans, Hird and a few key Essendon personnel were meeting at Evans’ home.  But from there things get a little fuzzy.  One version of events – Hird’s and apparently Essendon Football Manager Danny Corcoran’s – has Evans getting ‘tipped off’ by Demetriou that players at his club had been taking performance enhancing drugs (PED’s).
The other version – Demetriou’s and Evans’, denied that tip off was given.  Either way it was news to Hird, who was certain the accusation was incorrect.

You’ve doubtless heard these stories before so there’s no need to detail an entire timeline, but the discussions of that night and meetings at AFL House the next day would lead Essendon to “Self Report” itself to the AFL and ASADA.
The ACC briefing had clearly scared Demetriou, and it appears in turn he’d spooked Evans into that Press Conference, seemingly giving more weight to Demetriou’s concerns than Hird’s.  At the least Demetriou, as the AFL CEO, accepted the ‘self report’ and helped organize it and what would follow.

It would turn out to be one of the worst decisions made in the history of Australian sport.

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Why even non Soccer fans love the Socceroos (and 2am World Cup games)

Photo (Getty Images : Cameron Spencer)

As a confessed twitter addict I’ve noticed something interesting the past few weeks, the world loves the World Cup.  No news there, except that most of my circle of ‘tweeps’ have barely ever mentioned soccer; sorry, football, before the past two weeks.  Now my timeline is full of tweets about Mike (Tony, seriously mate) sorry Mile Jedinak, personal favourite Marco Bresciano and of course legend goal scorer and all around good guy Timmy Cahill.  I’d look down my nose at these bandwagon fans, if I wasn’t shamelessly one of them.

That’s not to say I don’t love ‘The World Game’ and have a history with it, I do.  As a kid I was a reasonably typical country sporting lad playing Aussie Rules in the Winter, Cricket in the Summer and Basketball year round.  We’d play some soccer at school but the game wasn’t big in my neck of the woods so it passed me by for much of my childhood.  That was until I made friends with a mad Manchester United fan in high school and was introduced to very late weekend nights watching the English Premier League.  My interest piqued in the early days of Harry Kewell’s career at Leeds United, and once he was joined by Mark Viduka I was hooked.  1am on a Sunday morning would roll around and I’d make my way to the couch and hope the brilliant Martin Tyler would be calling and a good game was in store.  I never became a fully fledged fan of a team in the EPL, though I had my favorites, rather I tended to follow the Aussie guys.

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Andrew Demetriou : A Bastion of integrity?

Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Not for the first time in the past 16 months there’s something smelly following Andrew Demetriou.

The former CEO of the AFL, who finished his highly successful yet sometimes tumultuous 11 year tenure in the highest profile job in Australian sport last Wednesday, is widely expected to take up the kind of cosy board position with a high profile company that most former CEO’s seem to semi retire to these days.

Yesterday however courtesy of Caroline Wilson at The Age came the somewhat surprising announcement that Demetriou would be joining the board of local Sports Marketing company The Bastion Group.

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NBA Finals Game 4 Preview : San Antonio Spurs @ Miami Heat

The NBA Finals series continues in Miami today with the pivotal game 4 matchup, following on from the Spurs blowout 19 point win in game 3.

The Heat will be hoping for a better performance from center Chris Bosh who was unusually quiet in game 3, managing just 9 points and more importantly just 3 rebounds.  The Spurs threw a matchup curveball at Bosh, with famously crafty coach Greg Poppovich trying to engineer a mismatch of sorts by starting Boris Diaw at center.  It’s not the first lineup change Poppovich has made these playoffs, with incumbent starter Brazilian Tiago Splitter starting at center in games 1 & 2 and the long range shooting Matt Bonner starting at times in the previous conference finals versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.  The Spurs goal is to spread out the Miami defense, Miami for their part have countered with heavy minutes for former big time scorer Rashard Lewis at Power Forward who is enjoying a career renaissance of sorts, while Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem continue to struggle to earn the minutes they once owned for the Heat.

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