Let's fix that. Let's talk about love. That's right, love. The love between one man and another. I'm not talking about anything sexual or erotic... just plain old man-to-man love and respect. You know, the kind that only a cowboy could understand. Yeah, so anyway, let's see who gets some love from me today...
1) Daniel Briere, stout fellow, scorer of overtime goals, forcer of Game 7s
There are few greater events in sports than a Game 7 in hockey. Hockey is inherently sudden, especially in the new NHL ("hey, we call penalties now!"), so even a three-goal lead isn't safe anymore. The entire outcome can change in the blink of an eye. I'm already tense, and the game's not gonna happen for a couple days.
I think Buffalo wins the game. Buffalo's two "name" guys, Briere and Chris Drury, aren't elite 50-goal-type scorers, but the 25-35 they do score will be timely. Drury arrived in Buffalo with that reputation, but Briere has emerged to make good on his early promise. He's poised to earn himself a lofty Hero rating for NHL 2007.
As a self-honorary Edmonton native, it doesn't hurt that my Oilers have been relaxing and getting their legs back for the past week, while the Sabres and Hurricanes have been injuring each other and wearing themselves out. Based on the shaky goaltending in Carolina (Cam Ward has been sufficient) and the depleted defensive corps in Buffalo (Tallinder and Kalinin are out, Numminen will probably join them), the Oilers' chances have improved with each passing day. Gotta love it.
However, I admit I don't love that quite as much as I love...
2) Pretty much everyone on the Phoenix Suns, including the coach. Even Nikoloz Tskiilividlishtkliviski.
Can you have a man-crush on like nine people at once? Maybe we can reduce it to five... Mike D'Antoni, Boris Diaw, and these three guys. Either way, I cannot say often enough how much I adore the Phoenix Suns, especially after last night's must-win drubbing. If America hasn't already collectively retched at the sight of yet another rant about the Suns, it soon will.
The Suns are the Showtime Lakers, but tweaked to fit the international era. That's no coincidence, considering what a huge proponent of internationalization David Stern (Der Fuhrer) has been. In stark contrast to the excruciatingly slow and unwatchable Pistons/Knicks/Heat/Spurs thugball that has ravaged basketball over the last 10-12 years, the Suns make every single game exciting, win or lose. No matter what happens in a Suns game, you know you'll see something cool and different. I haven't given a rat's ass about basketball (beyond the Celtics) since the Jordan-less days in the mid-90s. The Suns pulled me back in.
They've proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that their high-octane run-and-gun style can win. They defy conventional logic. Any way you break the series down, Dallas should have the advantage... deeper bench, better defense, taller players. The Mavericks should be beating the hell out of Phoenix physically. But they're not. I don't know why, but they're not. If Dallas wins this series, physicality will not have been the reason. That stuns me. But that's the new world order in the NBA. Herr Stern should replace the famous Jerry West logo with a logo of Boris Diaw laying the ball up while leaning away awkwardly from Erick Dampier.
Look at what Diaw and Shawn Marion have done against Dallas. They are the only two rebounders on the Suns' roster, and have played close to the entirety of this series. According to conventional logic, they should be worn down and physically beaten up by now, having been plastered by the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, DeSagana Diop and Erick Dampier, all of whom are seven-footers. But we're seeing the opposite... Marion and Diaw are scoring without any apparent difficulty, and are doing so by running faster and working harder than their defenders. Diaw is averaging 25 per game, and Marion is putting in 17 and pulling down 14.5 per game.
Having endured the last 12 years of NBA playoff basketball, I'm wondering why Diaw hasn't received an elbow in the ji-aw by ni-ow. In the NBA of 2004, Bruce Bowen would have punched Marion in the stomach (no call), ruptured a Tim Thomas Testicle with a karate chop (no call), and thrown a dead cat at Leandro Barbosa's mom during halftime (um, no call). But not in the 2006 NBA. It appears that Der Fuhrer's unreasonable suspensions of Ron Artest, Reggie Evans, and the Suns' Raja Bell during first-round action have set the precedent for such behavior. Any Maverick who cheap-shots a Sun can expect to miss a game, if not two, for doing so. Thus the Suns will continue to penetrate, and score, at will, without any fear of physical retribution. Yes, cheating is finally disallowed. How about that.
If the Suns actually pull this series out, will I ever be a happy fellow. Shaq would present the ultimate mismatch, but it looks like Kurt Thomas would be in good-enough shape by then to deal with Shaq's offense, and Shaq's defense could be neutralized by Diaw or Thomas drawing him out to the perimeter with mid-range jumpers. Although, after what we've seen so far, I'm not so sure the Suns care about mismatches anyway. They believe they can do anything. They'll stick to the plan and make it work. Even if it doesn't work, it'll be fun to watch. Just a fascinating team.
3) The Goddam American Hero Who Hit David Wells In The Leg The Other Night
Dammit! I knew I couldn't make it all the way through without being a bastard. At least I tried.