Ronaldo’s perfect cross to Varela for Portugal’s 2-2 tie against the United States in the closing seconds Sunday was so typical of superstars. Sports is all about timing. Players can have subpar performances (Ronaldo before closing sequence) and then dictate the outcome within a matter of seconds. The setup was a crusher for the United States, but for those who love passing, this was a beautiful thing. And while the match was riveting, it also was a classic example of why FIFA officials need to fix (no pun intended) the clock. When players are injured, stop the clock. When players need a water break, stop the clock. This notion of keeping the clock running, then adding minutes at the end of regulation for stoppage? Subjective and ridiculous. Tradition is a lame excuse. A game starts, a game ends, game over.
•Good for Gay:
It was pretty much assumed that small forward Rudy Gay would exercise the clause in his contract that guarantees him $19.3 million next season with the Kings, but he promised to inform the organization of his decision before Thursday’s NBA Draft and was true to his word. This is a class act. One reason the Kings want to keep Gay around is because he doesn’t play games.
•Duncan’s a dandy:
No one refers to the Spurs as “boring” these days, and I keep wondering if that’s because Tim Duncan – the league’s unknowable superstar – began sharing his emotions after San Antonio’s crushing defeat last year to the Miami Heat. He also went through a difficult divorce prior to last year’s NBA Finals, so who knows whether that had an impact? Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich always have entertained, but a team’s identity is dictated by its superstar. An aging, vulnerable Duncan is intriguing. A Duncan with his two kids at his side is irresistible. Fans crave that connection.
I can’t let the Spurs go off into the offseason without a shoutout to their entertaining style and Pop’s embrace of Euroball. In the 1980’s and 90’s, before European teams became consumed with pick-and-rolls, the two-man game and isolation plays that dominate the NBA, the style overseas was unselfish and simple, initiated by the basic draw-and-kick: The point guard penetrated, if his view of the basket was obstructed, he passed to a teammate in the corners or the wings, who then reversed the ball before the defense could react. The ball continued moving – often five, six, seven times – until a player had an open look or someone went backdoor for a layup. Popovich calls it “good to great” – teammates eschewing good shots for great shots. The teams from the former Soviet Union (Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulionis, Arturas Karnisovas) and Yugoslovia (Vlade Divac, Toni Kukoc, Drazen Petrovic) ran textbook offenses, and were delightful to watch – as Popovich often refers to from his years in the military overseas. The longtime Spurs coach saw a lot and established relationships around the globe that benefit him to this day.
•The great Gwynn:
Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who died last week, hit .338 with the San Diego Padres, which still sounds absolutely outrageous. Those of us who knew him since his days at San Diego State often wondered what he could have accomplished if he had stayed in better shape. Gwynn believed smokeless tobacco caused his cancer, but he also battled weight problems since his teens. The one-time Aztecs point guard (and San Diego Clippers draftee) repeatedly was badgered by his former coach, Smokey Gaines, to lose weight. His vice of choice, even more than smokeless tobacco: soda.