Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fall of King Federer?

Like most tennis enthusiasts I know, I'm a major fan of Roger Federer. His effortlessness, his sportsmanship, his talent, his personality -- the guy is a gift to all sports fans.

So it was a shame to see Federer fall at Wimbledon today, in four sets, to Tomas Berdych. In the quarterfinals!

That's two straight times Federer has failed to reach at the least the semifinals of a Grand Slam -- he also lost in the quarters of the French Open.

Federer at Wimbledon has long been a sure thing to get to the final, much like Pete Sampras used to be. The difference is that Federer was brilliant on all surfaces and Sampras just on the faster ones, which is why I consider Federer to be the greatest player of all time.

But Federer, 28, is showing signs of decline. He will actually drop to No.3 in the world ATP rankings after Wimbledon is complete -- he hasn't been that low since 2003.

Federer nearly lost in the first round of this year's Wimbledon, and he had another close call after that. He's won a record 16 Grand Slam singles titles, and he'll be a threat to win a handful more, but it's only going to get harder from here. I used to think Federer would likely reach at least 20 Grand Slam titles before he retired; now I'm not sure he'll get there. He's very vulnerable these days and while that makes for thrilling matches, it doesn't get you a whole lot of trophies.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh together in Miami?

One of the most intriguing rumors so far for the "NBA-free-agent-class-of-a-generation" has surfaced in Miami, where a source close to Dwyane Wade's camp says that it's conceivable that Wade, LeBron and Chris Bosh will all end up on the same Miami Heat team this summer.

My colleague and friend Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported this, writing in part "The Miami Heat just might win a triple crown."

Can you imagine what this would do to the NBA -- and to the Bobcats? Talk about an unfair advantage. It is to the best interest of the Bobccats and, to a much greater extent, the NBA that this sort of "super-team" not get created. In 29 other NBA cities besides Miami, it would make people mad (although it's totally within the rules, just like a college football team getting the top 3 recruits in the country one year).

I don't ultimately see it happening -- I think that it'd be difficult to work out the money among 3 players who all would believe they deserve a maximum contract. And I'd rather not see it happen -- the NBA is more fun when the talent is spread out and the "8-10 teams can win the title" premise is actually viable.

Still, it's quite a thought to imagine. The NBA free agency period starts Thursday at 12:01 a.m., although binding contracts cannot be signed until July 8th. I'll be addressing this topic in more depth later this week in a column. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts about what a LeBron-Wade-Bosh trio would do in Miami and do to the league, please leave a comment below.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Do we care about World Cup anymore?

I've been on vacation for the past 2 weeks, and I got pretty into the World Cup. I didn't watch a lot of sports on TV while off work, but I made sure I knew when each U.S. game was being played and generally watched the whole thing with my 9-year-old son. When Landon Donovan scored against Algeria in extra time to put the U.S. into the round of 16, we screamed in joy.

But now that Ghana has knocked the U.S. out -- 2-1 in extra time on Saturday -- do you care anymore about this World Cup? Maybe you never did. A lot of people certainly don't, but the TV ratings were pretty high this time around for the U.S. games at least.

So now the World Cup party is going on without us. Germany whipped England, 4-1, this weekend, and England got robbed of one goal in that one by a bad call. I know a lot of the European continent was up in arms about that battle, but I didn't watch it live and haven't gotten around to watching a replay of the disputed goal, either.

In other words, I think my interest in the World Cup declined by about 80 percent over the weekend. Although I wish I was less parochial and more global about it, I simply am not. What about you? (And if there are no comments about this blog, I'll take that as my answer).

In any case, please keep checking back on "Scott Says" this week. I'm back.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Good for Muhsin Muhammad

Good for Muhsin Muhammad.

Good for the “Moose” for exiting the NFL gracefully Thursday, as he retired as the Carolina Panthers’ all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards.

It could have ended in a different, nastier way – with Muhammad, 37, catching on with another NFL team as a backup receiver and trying to squeeze another year out of his body.

Instead, Muhammad realized it was time for him to go. The Panthers didn’t re-sign him this offseason, and no other teams were jumping through hoops to grab him, either. So Muhammad decided, in his own words: “I would walk away from the game on my own terms, while I still could, instead of crawling away later.”

Moose called his time with the Panthers "a great ride."

The Panthers were obviously grateful that the relationship ended amicably, and in return they staged one of the more elaborate retirement ceremonies in their history.

Team owner Jerry Richardson, head coach John Fox and former Panther quarterback Steve Beuerlein all spoke. A “greatest hits” Muhammad video was played, with his 85-yard, Super Bowl-record touchdown catch front and center.

And then Muhammad himself talked for 26 minutes, thanking everybody from God to his Pop Warner coach, from the guy who taped his ankles every day to Greg “Catman” Good, the Panther superfan who wore Muhammad’s No.87 jersey to games.

“For me, today is not a day of mourning,” Muhammad said. “It’s a day of celebration.”

And it mostly seemed that way. Muhammad was frequently funny during his retirement speech. Tears welled in his eyes only twice -- when he looked at his wife, Christa (with whom he has six kids) and when he looked at longtime teammate Steve Smith.

Muhammad said his post-football plans include working closely with a private equity firm he has founded and trying to do some sports broadcasting.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Timing is awful for Davis, Panthers

Dan Morgan had his concussions. Now Thomas Davis has his right knee.

Thomas Davis’s injury could hardly have come at a worse time, both for the Carolina Panthers’ sake and financially for Davis. I bet this injury will cost him at least $5-10 million on his bottom line – the guaranteed money he will get on his next contract, whenever that comes.

Davis confirmed Wednesday that he had a torn anterior cruciate ligament – his second ACL tear in seven months, and in the same knee he injured last November. This ACL will likely keep him out for the season – the rehab for an ACL generally takes 6-9 months and sometimes longer.

The strength of the Panthers’ 2010 defense was supposed to be Davis and middle linebacker Jon Beason, who as a pair may form the fastest linebacker tandem in the NFL. At their best, they fly from sideline to sideline like raptors, making one eye-popping play after another. Without Julius Peppers causing (occasional) havoc as a pass rusher, they were going to be even more important in 2010.

And now… this. Davis had run a 4.47 40-yard dash – close to his best – only recently. He was tickled with the rehab from his first ACL. But he tore this one without being touched, while back-pedaling, just like the first time. And to have two ACL tears – that doesn’t mean you can’t play pro football, certainly, but it does mean you’ll be viewed as damaged goods. I hope this isn't the beginning of the end for Davis, 27, like the concussions turned out to be for Morgan.

I thought Davis was playing at a Pro Bowl level last November. But he blew out the ACL Nov.8 at New Orleans (he missed nine of 16 games overall in 2009 -- 8 due to the knee, 1 due to a hamstring injury), and now here comes another ACL. He’ll still make $3.268 million this season and he’ll still be an unrestricted free agent after the 2010 season, but now his market value will be far lower.

I feel really bad for Davis. I hate when guys who respect the game get hurt.

I remember watching Davis once in practice when Beason had to run extra sprints for a minor transgression. Davis, just to be a good teammate, ran right alongside him, and it was marvelous to watch – two of the Panthers’ best athletes flying along like 240-pound Usain Bolts.

When Davis was the Panthers’ No.1 draft pick in 2005, I still remember what he said his goal as a defensive player was: “Get to the ball with bad intentions.”

It's an admirable philosophy for a heck of a linebacker – and one Davis is going to have to wait a very long time to act upon again.

Strasburg and the sports analogy of the month

There are lots of reasons for baseball fans to love Stephen Strasburg, the power pitcher who made his major-league debut Tuesday for the Washington Nationals and struck out an astounding 14 batters in seven innings of work.

Strasburg is the sort of guy everyone gets excited about -- he can throw it 100 mph and his major-league debut could hardly have gone better. He struck out the last seven batters he faced.

But I also liked what he said postgame when reporters asked about his performance.

"The only thing I really remember is the first pitch -- ball inside -- everything else is just such a blur," Strasburg said. "At one point I lost track of how many innings I threw. I was like, 'You know what? I'm just going to go out there and have fun.' It's amazing.

"It's kind of like when you get married and everything, you kind of go into it wanting to remember everything -- and once it's done, you can't remember a single thing."

I would bet this rings a bell with everyone who has ever been married. A total blur, isn't it? You're lucky if you get to eat anything at your own reception. You might remember a few things without visual aids -- i.e. photos and video -- but if you're like me, not too many.

With that quote, Strasburg -- who got married in January -- came up with what I believe will stand as the sports analogy of the month.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

World Cup soccer groupies

I wrote my column today about two unusual World Cup soccer groupies -- a couple of high school teachers from Iredell County who have attended the past four World Cups and have tickets for No.5 later this month in South Africa.

I'm the stereotypical American with regard to the World Cup -- don't much care about the qualifying tournaments, but then start paying attention just before it starts. I am looking forward to the tournament (it runs from June 11 through July 11), especially the first-round U.S.-England game.

One thing I didn't get in the story: I talked to these two teachers (Terry Shinn and Greg Crowley) a little bit about coaching youth soccer. I've dabbled in it, and I have a 9-year-old son who loves to play.

Both Crowley and Shinn have extensive coaching resumes around here at the youth level -- they have even taken teams of local youth to go play soccer in tournaments in Great Britain.

The two told me that the best thing for a kid to do if he wants to practice soccer is:

1) Make sure he's working on both feet equally (i.e. shooting with your "off" foot a lot). and....
2) Learn how to juggle the ball with ease.

Crowley told me he once had a conversation with an English youth soccer coach about juggling. He asked the coach how many times most of his kids could generally juggle it in a row before the ball hit the ground.

"I don't know," the English coach said. "I never really counted."

"No, really, how many?" Crowley persisted.

"I really don't know," the English coach said. "How many touches would you have in 20 minutes?"

It turned out that most of the kids on that English team could juggle a soccer ball, yes, for 20 minutes straight without it hitting the ground.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Larry Brown talks -- sort of

I found Rick Bonnell's story quite interesting today in regard to the continuing saga of Larry Brown.

Brown said "I'm here, coaching, so obviously I’m under contract, doing my job."

As to whether the situation is settled, Brown offered this: "I'm here. If I wasn't here, it would be another thing."

Another thing... hmmm. And what would that other thing be?

Sounds to me like Brown is being careful to leave himself an "out" here, just in case he doesn't come back to coach the Bobcats for a third straight season.

I'll say this: Brown talked today after a pre-draft workout of some prospects, and let's give him credit for that. I ripped him Friday in this blog (read the previous post if you want to see it) for not addressing the media following a workout, so he's improving.

But, again, this is Larry being Larry. No one who has even glanced at the guy's resume is going to say with any certainty that he's here at Halloween, when the 2010-11 Bobcats open play.

And on another topic, the comments Bonnell got from GM Rod Higgins regarding Raymond Felton -- that sounded VERY iffy as to whether Felton is going to come back or not. Interesting.

Friday, June 4, 2010

C'mon, Larry Brown -- talk!

C’mon now, Larry.

You not talking to the media – at an official team function where you are serving as a head coach – is almost as inconceivable as a perfect game that requires 28 outs.

Yet both those things have now happened this week. Brown, the Bobcats’ head coach, blew off the media Friday following a workout of six draft prospects at the team’s practice facility. And that’s really not acceptable.

Coaches can say “no comment” all they like, but they at least have to listen to the questions. That’s part of the job. Even if Brown still hasn’t made up his mind on whether to return and coach the Bobcats next season, he needs to say that and not just leave all Bobcat fans guessing.

I’ll give Panthers coach John Fox credit on this one – he may stand there and not say anything much, but at least he says something.

Brown, meanwhile, has gone into “Bizarro Larry” mode. Moody. Unpredictable. One hand seemingly on the nearest door.

I have a couple of competing theories on why Brown dodged the media Friday:

1) Brown really hasn’t made up his mind for sure on whether to return. Certainly possible, although it would make his comment April 30 (at his last previous team function before Friday) that “I don’t want this to drag on” seem laughable. It’s been five weeks now since Brown said that.

2) Brown already knows he’s going to return but he wants something. Not talking Friday was a message to team owner Michael Jordan: “Give me x (some perk, or some roster maneuver, or something) and I’ll say publicly that I’m back and we’ll be done with all this.”

For now, though, who knows? I still believe Brown will ultimately return to the Bobcats, and that would certainly be the best thing for the team because he’s a hall of fame coach. But his behavior Friday was certainly unusual and exasperating.

The media, after all, is simply a stand-in for the fans. Brown always talks about respecting the game, and that also means you respect your fans as well. You make them feel a part of the team they support with their hard-earned money. You let them in on what the head coach is thinking (through the media).

Let’s just hope Brown’s drive-by refusal to talk to the media Friday doesn’t become a trend.

For the Bobcats to look dysfunctional for a single day? During the Bob Johnson era, that used to happen all the time.

If this mess drags on much longer, though, the Bobcats are just going to look silly.

McAdoo's father talks about son's UNC options

James McAdoo, the 6-8 power forward from Virginia who may enroll at UNC a year early, will likely not make that decision until sometime in July, his father Ronnie McAdoo told me this morning.

It wouldn’t be hard for his son to qualify to become a member of the Class of 2010 instead of 2011, McAdoo said – he would need only one online course to graduate early and play for the Tar Heels immediately.

I talked with the elder McAdoo – a second cousin of former UNC player and basketball hall of famer Bob McAdoo – on the phone this morning about the decision. He said he and his wife had talked with UNC’s basketball coaches several weeks ago to discuss the early-jump option.

One important note: McAdoo said he wanted to make everyone understand that if his son jumped, it would only be to begin his college experience a year early. (And if McAdoo did jump, he would have to play for the Tar Heels two years at least according to NBA age restrictions regarding the draft).

“Let me make this clear,” McAdoo said. “The NBA has nothing to do with this. That’s not even being considered. It’s the fact that the opportunity is available. Carolina is short at power forward. At least for Mom and Dad, our intentions would be that he would be there for four years.”

Other comments from Ronnie McAdoo:

** On what’s happening now: “He’s just going through the process now, praying about the ‘Now or 2011’ decision. He only needs one online class to graduate if he does it. He’s an excellent student.”

** On when the decision will be made: “This is not something that needs to be rushed into. He’s been given plenty of time to make that decision and it’s something he probably won’t do until after he comes back from Germany with the U.S. team." McAdoo will play on the U.S. team that competes in the 17-and-under world championships from July 2-11.

** Why the family is considering the move: “With the Wear twins leaving, an opportunity has been made available. After we got that news and knew that Ed Davis was turning pro, we realized that at power forward Carolina didn’t have enough players. So what if he could go early?”

** On whether he and his wife are ready for McAdoo to leave home: “That would be tough, for sure. But my family is from Mebane, so he’d have family almost right there. And he’s only 3.5 hours from us. If that’s what is best for him, than Mom and Dad will support him 100 percent.”

** On Andre Dawkins’ influence (Dawkins also left school a year early to play at Duke this past season, although he had been “re-classified” earlier in his high school career and thus passed on his original plan to play a fifth high school season): “Andre and James are good friends. That has played some part. We have thought to ourselves, ‘What if you could do what Andre Dawkins did?’”

I will be writing a column about James McAdoo on the "Should-he-stay-or-go" topic for Saturday's Charlotte Observer that will also appear online.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Selig should reverse call, award perfect game

We wuz robbed.

It's a refrain you hear time and again in sports -- that the officiating cost somebody something.

In many cases, it's an excuse. Today, though, it's absolutely true. Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga had a perfect game taken away from him by a bad call on what would have been the 27th and final out of the game Wednesday night.

After 26 straight outs, umpire Jim Joyce emphatically called Cleveland's Jason Donald safe after Donald hit a grounder between first and second. Galarraga covered first on the play, and replays showed that he clearly took the throw and got his foot on the bag before the runner.

Joyce, simply, missed it. And he has admitted it and apologized, to Galarraga and everyone else involved.

MLB commissioner Bud Selig won't step in and fix this -- he's apparently going to let it go the way of all other umpiring mistakes over the years and just let it stand. But he should.

Selig has the authority to do so. In normal situations, I would never advocate such a drastic step, but in this rare case it's warranted. The play would have ended the game -- a 3-0 Detroit win. Everyone agrees that the call was missed (and of course MLB should be able to consult replay on such plays, but that's another story).

I know some would argue this opens a Pandora's Box, but it doesn't. It's more about right and wrong -- a win-win for the pitcher who was robbed, the umpire who is distraught and baseball fans in general, who like everyone else love to see a rare night of perfection in our imperfect world.

Celtics over Lakers in 7

My esteemed colleague Rick Bonnell picks the Lakers to beat the Celtics today in the 2010 NBA Finals.

I respectfully disagree. I think Boston is going to edge its way to victory in a classic series between the NBA's two most storied franchises, much like the Celtics did in 2008 when they also faced the Lakers in the final.

There's no doubt the Lakers have the single best player in the series in Kobe Bryant, but I like the Celtics' core more than the Lakers (who won the 2009 title). When it's time to get a key rebound, I like Kevin Garnett's chances of grabbing it over Pau Gasol. The Celtics, I think, have one more title left in that "Big 4" core of Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo -- assuming Rondo can hit a few jump shots.

I admit that part of my reasoning in this comes from a Charlotte Bobcats lens. Every time I see the Lakers in person, the Bobcats are frustrating them -- either winning or almost winning. The Celtics, on the other hand, usually destroy the Bobcats -- and they beat an Orlando team in the playoffs that dismantled Charlotte in a four-game sweep.

It's just a feeling, but any team that can beat both LeBron James and Dwight Howard in the same playoffs isn't going to be intimidated by Kobe. Give me Boston in 7.