CLEVELAND – There are a number of real hockey markets that deserve an NHL franchise far more than San Jose, and the Stanley Cup Final confirms as much. Not that confirmation is needed, really.
In the biggest sports event in San Who-Dey Sharks history, the playing conditions at the SAP Barn have been an embarrassment to the game and the league. But that’s old news. The players have ranked the place at or near the bottom in that regard for years.
As St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the NHL Network the other day, “Well, if you look at the machinery outside as you’re walking in the building, it makes you nervous. There’s a lot of pumps and there’s a lot of tubes goin’ on there, and you’re wonderin’ … You know, it looks like something, quite frankly, out of Six Flags on the outside of the building there.”
Yet one would think that the league’s showcase event deserved special treatment. After all, the Sharks get there once every 25 years or so, right?
When an Andrea Bocelli concert went into overtime on the eve of Game 3, workers were late to get the rink in place in the absence of a backup plan. Coupled with the heat and humidity, the ice was deplorable. Sure, the conditions were the same for both teams, but as the much faster one, the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t skate nearly as well on slush.
If Bocelli hadn’t bailed out the Sharks, who won in overtime, they would have been swept in four games. As it was, they never led for a single second in any of them, something that had never happened in the expansion era.
If the Sharks somehow come back to steal this thing, Bocelli deserves to be the Conn Smythe Trophy winner hands down.
SEPARATED AT BIRTH: The Sharks’ Logan Couture made Late Night host Jimmy Fallon’s list of superlatives as the Most Likely to Be the Love Child of Tom Cruise and Gary Busey. Strange. Funny, but Balls thinks Fallon is more likely to be the love child of Couture and ex-teammate Jamie McGinn.
LOVE STORY: Nobody has had a greater impact on the NBA Finals than the Warriors’ Harrison Barnes at this point. That’s right — not Stephen Curry or LeBron James but Harrison Barnes. Because when Barnes concussed the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love with an inadvertent blow to the back of the head in the series opener, he effectively knocked over the first of several dominos that threatened to turn the series around.
Love and teammate Kyrie Irving are to defense what raw meat is to Dobermans. In the first two games of the series, the Warriors abused them in the screen-roll game as expected. Love and Irving were often stuck against Green and Curry in what amounted to colossal mismatches.
See, a lot of the NBA is about matchups, and with Love sidelined in Game 3, James and fellow coach Tyronn Lue decided on a smaller lineup. Richard Jefferson started at small forward, where his mobility was a better fit against Barnes or Andre Iguodala on the wing. Green was the most productive player in the first two games, but when James moved to power forward, he had his hands full all of a sudden.
On the flip side, Love is an established 3-point shooter and rebounder. But if Irving shoots the ball and Tristan Thompson rebounds it like they’re capable, he’s not missed as much if at all.
“Um, well, it’s the first time I’m hearing about it, because I don’t hear about the talk,” James hemmed and hawed before Game 4, when he was asked whether Love should start or come off the bench. “I really don’t know what goes on outside of what we’re doing here. So it doesn’t matter to me.”
If you believe that, Balls has an exotic island on Lake Erie to sell you. James admits that he and Lue discuss games plans regularly. He’s too smart not to know that his team has a better chance with Love in smaller doses at least in this series.
Now the question is, at what point does Warriors coach Steve Kerr bench big man Andrew Bogut in favor of Iguodala, the stroke of genius that turned around the NBA Finals last year.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK: Lue on the delayed response from the league on Love’s status: “I’m not a doctor … Sssheeeeet.” (Or something very close to that, anyway.)
Kerr on how he would approach Game 4 if he were Cavaliers coach: “I am not the Cavs’ coach tonight.”
DELLY CLOSED FOR BUSINESS: So hot was Cavaliers pest Matthew Dellavedova around these parts last postseason, the Delly Burger found its way on the Quicken Loans Arena menu. But when Balls made the rounds, there was no sign of the St. Mary’s College product.
“Sorry, no more Delly Burgers. It wasn’t popular any more,” a B Spot server told Balls. “But we do have the Fat Doug, and it has everything — coleslaw, pastrami …”
But the Fat Doug won’t dive at your knees if you drop it on the floor.
DELLY II: So desperate are fellow countrymen to get Dellavedova back in the game, one local Australians television outlet lobbied for his promotion to a starter job.
“Dellavedova goes harder than granite,” wrote a delusional blogger who covered the series. “Delly is to hustle what Kanye is to Kanye. You know it makes sense …
“Do it Ty Lue. Unleash Delly-Mania Part 2.”
Yeah, start Delly. Bet the Warriors would even spring for a chauffeur to get him to the arena on time.
JUST SAYIN’: Colin Kapernick says he’s happy and Barry Bonds says he’s sorry and Balls says they’re just no fun any more.
Word is that Blaine Gabbert has a wide edge over Kaepernick at quarterback, and boy, doesn’t that make a 49ers fan want to shell out twelve hundred bucks for a season nosebleed seat?
When the Path(l)etics traded outfielder Chris Coghlan back to the Chicago Cubs the other day, the lucky dog gained 21 1/2 games in the standings and at least 100 points on his .146 batting average.
In lieu of actual games, the A’s-Reds series would be a lot better if they showed replays of the 1972 Fall Classic instead.
Speaking of which, Joe Rudi’s catch in Game 2 still is among the most underrated ever. Period. If the Boston Red Sox-Giants series at AT&T Park is a preview of another in October, then MLB can do a lot worse. It continues on July 19-20 at Fenway Paaahk.
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