21 April 2008

The Think Sink

It's time for a new post. I mean, it's time. It's one thing to go two months without a post in the offseason, but to go a week without a post during the regular season? That's not acceptable. But the truth is I don't even want to think about the Dodgers after the weekend they had. Sweeps happen, bad stretches happen, but the games in Atlanta never approached being fun to watch. The Dodgers couldn't score; the pitching always found a way to kerplode.

Right now I'm more interested in the NBA playoffs. That game between the Spurs and the Suns was amazing --- two overtimes, three game tying three pointers with time running down, a game-winning layup by Manu Ginobli --- how do you let him get a layup in that situation, anyway? But the craziest moment of the game was the three Duncan hit to force the second overtime.

Let's play What Was He Thinking? with that moment.

Here was the situation: It was near the end of the first overtime period in the San Antonio-Phoenix game, with the Spurs down by three. Clutch scorer Manu Ginobli had the ball off the inbounds pass. He drove, was stopped by a double team, and passed out to Tim Duncan, standing at the three point line. What was Ginobli thinking in that moment?

As great as Duncan is, Manu is the clutch end-of-game player on the Spurs. That doesn't mean it's wrong for him to give up the ball if the defense overplays him, and getting the ball to an open shooter at the three-point line is a very good thing when you're down three late, but Duncan? There was enough time to get two, still --- I wonder if Manu thought Duncan would dribble in closer and get a look at an easier two, maybe that deadly bank-shot of his. Or did he really expect Duncan to take the shot from the three point line? Maybe he just saw an open teammate, the white Spurs jersey, and only as the ball was leaving his hand did he realize "Wait, what? Why is Duncan spotting up for three, and why am I passing it to him?"

Which brings me to the second, and even more interesting, What Was He Thinking? What the hell was Tim Duncan thinking when he spotted up at the three point line, caught the ball and let his shot fly? Did he think this was a good option for the team? Remember, Duncan hadn't made a three all season. He's not Dirk Nowitzki out there. He's a center, a rather traditional center, though for some reason he wants to be called a power forward. Centers don't take three pointers. They aren't good at it. One of the craziest shots I ever saw was a three made by Vlade Divac to send a Lakers-Clippers game into overtime one year when the Lakers were really bad. When he made that shot Vlade was beside himself with joy and surprise. Even he couldn't believe he had made that shot. Vlade actually made 100 three-pointers in his regular season career, though he shot a terrible percentage. Duncan has made 28 in his career, including 4 in the playoffs. Does he practice threes? Maybe he does. Maybe he knew it was going in. Confidence is a great thing to watch.

The truth is, I don't think Ginobli or Duncan was thinking about anything other than winning. Screw the percentages --- they are champions and they found a way to win. The Dodgers aren't champions. They aren't winners, not yet. My guess, through observation, is that they are a baseball team without confidence, full of players who seem to be thinking too much at the plate and on the mound. Something is holding them back, because while the Dodgers may not be better than the Snakes, or even good enough to make the playoffs, there is too much talent on this team for them to have a losing record.

It's not just the players. Torre thinks about the Dodger's offensively poor games so much he gets lost in dead end mental alleys where starting Juan Pierre over Matt Kemp seems like a good idea. And he's long been known for overthinking his pitching moves, avoiding using his best reliever at a point when the game is truly on the line because he might need the good one even more later.

I think I will watch tonight's Dodger game, as depressing as it's been to watch the team lately. It's less than an hour from now, actually. Go forth and unleash your inner Duncans, Dodgers!

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