Each week, Dan Rubenstein, Ty Hildenbrandt and Jacob Osterhout will jump on e-mail and riff about various subjects in the news offered up by SI.com's Jimmy Traina.
Traina: Gentlemen, let's get right to it: Is there any chance we could see a Denver-Orlando NBA Finals? And if either Kobe or LeBron doesn't make the Finals, thus denying us the Kobe-vs.-LeBron matchup, will the Finals be unwatchable?
Hildenbrandt: Before the conference finals got rolling, there was a fairly widespread belief that the Lakers and Cavs would reign supreme. The only logical conclusion is that these matchups are rigged worse than the 1985 NBA draft lottery, and David Stern is trying to drive both series to six or seven games. That said, the possibility of giving Hedo Turkoglu more face time could completely redefine the way our Unwatchability Scale operates. It'd be like Y2K all over again.
Osterhout: I want to say there is a very large chance Denver and Orlando will face off in the NBA Finals because that would mean NBA basketball is a team sport that does not rely solely on superstars for success. Something about this team concept appeals to the basketball lover in me. Unfortunately, I don't see Kobe or LeBron allowing his team to lose. They will walk on water, give their souls to the devil -- whatever it takes -- to get their teams to the NBA Finals. And even Superman can't stop LeBron and Kobe when they take their vitamins. The refs will ensure that Kenyon Martin will explode, Hedo Turkoglu will implode and, in the end, all that will remain is what the NBA wants -- a marquee matchup between its two biggest superstars.
Rubenstein: Given the combination of inconsistent play and nonsensical officiating, it'd be dumb to rule out anything. Common sense would have the Lakers and Cavs finding another gear this week, but you'd think we'd have seen flashes by now. I'd watch anything but a Magic-Nuggets Finals, which would be the least-anticipated matchup since Detroit-San Antonio, which was fully expected but not at all anticipated in 2005. I think I watched about as much of that "event" as I have any Jerry Lewis telethon or American Music Awards.
Rubenstein: Superman CAN stop the following people, though: Derek Fisher, Sasha Vujacic, Sasha Pavlovic, Wally Szczerbiak and Luke Walton. Actually, I'm pretty sure a motivated Ty could.
Hildenbrandt: Speaking of mismatches, has anyone else enjoyed the "Holy crap, J.J. Redick is trying to guard LeBron" moments as much as I have?
Osterhout: Vujacic has obviously been drinking the wrong kind of protein shakes during the playoffs because he's been awful. As for Redick guarding LeBron, Duke didn't have any classes on how to contain a man-child, and poetry just isn't working. Don't blame Redick, blame the system.
Rubenstein: At what point does LeBron stop being a "man-child" and start being known as a "beast" or a "freak"? We need new names for guys with rare physical advantages. It always sounds like they should be chased with pitchforks and torches.
Hildenbrandt: EA Sports should really consider resurrecting Jordan vs. Bird, only in the form of LeBron vs. Redick. It could be something for the kids to Twitter about. Just sayin'.
Rubenstein: Only if we get to see the pregame rituals of LeBron throwing up the talc at the scorer's table and J.J. coifing/gelling in the locker room.
Osterhout: Watch, in 10 years, scientists are going to prove that inhaling talc powder is worse than asbestos, and hundreds of fans who sat front row at the Q are going to sue LeBron. Of course, this will only happen if he does not win a championship in Cleveland. If he does, all is forgiven.
Rubenstein: This is exactly how I feel about flat-panel TVs. It'll be discovered soon that they emit some sort of radiation and both people older than 55 and those living in the middle of nowhere will rise and take over thanks to their unwillingness to bring HD into their lives. All right, now I've lost my train of thought.
Osterhout: I'll just throw this conspiracy theory out there and see if it floats: The NBA won't allow the Nuggets or the Magic to win. The refs and the league in general have too much control over the game to allow for fair play. Did you see that call on Dwight Howard the other night when he cleanly blocked LeBron's three-pointer from behind in the final minutes of the game and the refs hit him with his sixth foul? Turns out it didn't really affect the game, but you can bet the refs will give the Cavs and Lakers every call in the next few games. Also, the NBA gets to review every flagrant foul call. No doubt it will try its hardest to mitigate the damages to its favorite teams.
Rubenstein: It seems that the theory would make sense to a point. The Lakers certainly aren't doing themselves any favors, despite any supposed help. I'm sure that, at least in L.A., the Lakers should shoot more free throws than Denver, but even that doesn't seem to do much. Watching Game 4 in Denver, it was hard to see how the refs wanted to help the Lakers, but that was probably just a stage-setting game. As for flagrants, Andrew Bynum got called on a clear attempt at the ball last night and Dahntay Jones hasn't even tried to hide his attempts to take out Kobe. As always, though, it's still early.
Traina: Since the refs are a big topic, what sport would you say has the worst officiating?
Hildenbrandt: Wow, talk about a loaded question. Are we going to be doing the chicken-or-egg discussion later?
Rubenstein: I'm trying hard to find a worse group of refs than the NBA's, and while a few come to mind -- the soccer refs who haven't been able to get a read on flopping; college/NFL refs who can't decide on what pass interference is; certain baseball umps who make up strike zones as they go along -- I still don't think there's any group that affects games more consistently than NBA refs. That said, there's no real instant oversight like with tennis or football replay, and the penalties and infractions of most sports are much easier to interpret than basketball's. I love the word "infraction."
Osterhout: The holding calls in the NFL can be ridiculous. There seems to be no difference between those that the refs choose to call and those that they don't. Same goes for pass interference, which seems to be defined by the refs much as Justice Potter Stewart defined obscenity -- "I know it when I see it." That being said, football is just a much slower game than basketball, which gives the refs time to work out the kinks with instant replay. In the NBA, the refs are basing their calls on player reaction. The same defense will be called a hand check 20 percent of the time, a bump 30 percent of the time and won't be whistled the other 50 percent. It all depends on the players, the stage of the game and the lunar cycles. I'm sure their is some sort of algorithm out there that can predict NBA officiating, but it's got to be incredibly complicated. I heard Coach K speak a few weeks ago, and he made a good point. He said basketball is the only sport that has different rules at every level. That probably contributes to the subjective nature of the officiating.
Osterhout: What if the NBA adopted playground rules and allowed players to call their own fouls? I think Kobe Bryant would call a foul every time down the court, but at least the fans would have a much better understanding of a player's personality. How could you like a player who called 30 fouls on the other team? You couldn't. I also think the NBA should adopt metal nets. The make such a nice sound when the ball goes through the hoop.
Hildenbrandt: The obvious answer here has to be basketball referees. Nothing changes a game like foul trouble, and in no other sport is it as easy for a referee to basically eliminate a player from the equation. This is from the top down -- from the guys reffing NBA games to the unpaid volunteer running your CYO game. But in all fairness to NBA refs, whenever we start talking about egregiously poor officiating, we all need to take a moment to pay homage to the late Eric Gregg for his fine work in the 1997 National League Championship Series. If you ever have a chance to re-watch Game 5 of that Braves-Marlins series, you will be completely blown away. His strike zone gets wider with each pitch, to the point where guys would need to be swinging oak trees just to make contact.
Hildenbrandt: I like Dan's idea. Perhaps the NBA could even hold another draft to select B-list celebrities, failed draft picks and even innocent bystanders as the next season's referees. "And with the first pick of the 2009 NBA ref draft, David Stern selects ... Kwame Brown!"
Rubenstein: I say train the tribesmen from those Burger King commercials who haven't tasted Whoppers or Big Macs. They come in with no biases or preconceived notions about basketball and will simply call what they see. If Kobe or Dwight Howard foul out in a quarter and a half, so be it. Plus, you can give them Whoppers as payment and they won't complain.
Rubenstein: If nothing else, it'd be fun to watch Kwame fumble the catch and throwback during free throws and inbounds plays.
Hildenbrandt: Oh, that'd be high comedy. And you'd think he'd jump at the chance to average more than 17 minutes per game, right?
Osterhout: You set them up, I'll knock them down. Kwame Brown can't jump, so he'd probably just slowly rise at the chance to average more than 17 minutes per game.
Rubenstein: Introducing Kwame Brown jokes may have just ended any hope that Jimmy once had for us to stay on topic.
Hildenbrandt: On this day, May 26, 2009, I declare any and all Kwame Brown jokes admissible in all current and future "E-mailing It In" segments, regardless of context.
Traina: Yeah, definitely time to move on. But this should cause just as much nonsense. Jose Canseco made his MMA debut last night. He was knocked out after 1:16. Thoughts?
Osterhout: It seems to me that Canseco took steroids at the wrong moment in his life. By juicing during his baseball career, he ruined his legacy. That was stupid. But what's even more stupid is that he stopped juicing before he fought a 7-foot-2, 330-pound grand champion of sumo. Dude, if you can't beat Danny Bonaduce in a boxing match, you are going to need some artificial help fighting South Korea's version of Andre the Giant.
Rubenstein: Why is it that so many guys, especially famous ones, think they can fight? I don't follow MMA, but I'm assuming, like with anything else, the guys who are successful have trained for years and years to win their bouts.
Rubenstein: OK, I just watched the fight and am now officially a fan of Hong Man Choi, a.k.a. the Korean Gheorghe Muresan. I will forever be haunted by the image of HMC barreling at me with that quasi-goatee. I have no evidence to back this up, but if Mark McGwire and Raffy Palmeiro watched this, they thoroughly enjoyed it and sent it out to all of their friends.
Hildenbrandt: They all think they can fight, you know that. But it's not so much about the fighting as it is the money. At this point, Canseco would wrestle a Kodiak bear if he could make four figures off it. My big question: How does Canseco keep finding work? Seriously, what is the appeal? Aren't we past the shock and awe of Jose Canseco being injected into a random event? We need a "How the Eff Do These Guys Keep Finding Work" Hall of Fame. Charter members could include Isiah Thomas, Jimmy Fallon, Chan Ho Park and, of course, Canseco.
Osterhout: I would pay to watch Canseco fight Mark Cuban, but that's about it. I think Cuban would win that fight, but it would certainly last a lot longer than 1:16. Other famous people I would like Canseco to fight: Martha Stewart, Ed Hochuli, King Kong, Ray Lewis and Richard Simmons.
Traina: Jose Canseco vs. Richard Simmons? Fascinating to visualize. Anyway, final question of the day. The world has been taken over by Twitter. Who are your three favorite people to follow on Twitter and why?
Osterhout: When Shaquille O'Neal came out of the womb, he had two purposes in life -- to play basketball and to Twitter. He is far and away the best Twitterer in the athletic world, and maybe in the universe as a whole. I like USC coach Pete Carroll, too, mainly because he is so positive all the time. But that's also why I hate him. He's like a bright, sunny day in California when you are stuck on the subway in NYC. I'll also go with Natalie Gulbis, just because I like hearing what she's doing at all times. For instance, one night last week she was watching the NBA playoffs, and I was watching the NBA playoffs, so it was kind of like we were watching the NBA playoffs together. God, I love Twitter.
Rubenstein: Well, Jimmy, I'm tempted to say that you make my top three, but below-average baseball "locks" and disdain for certain American Idol judges only gets you so many points. Right now, No. 1 in my Fave Three is Aziz Ansari (Human Giant, Parks and Recreation), who regularly makes up conversations with luminaries like Lauren Conrad and Trent Reznor. My No. 2 is Spencer Hall from the Every Day Should be Saturday blog, mostly because he's doing the whole "Tweeting About College Football While Laid Up With a Broken Back" thing better than most. And finally, No. 3 goes to Jim Courier, who has fully embraced the medium, exciting the tennis nerd in me. Honorable mentions include the feed for Kogi BBQ (L.A.'s most popular Korean taco truck) and SI.com's Arash Markazi, who seems to be in 13 places at once.
Osterhout: For the record, I answered the question thinking that we were talking about "athletes" on Twitter, although I still stand behind Shaq and Gulbis.
Rubenstein: Athletes are mainly boring, with the rare redheaded former French Open champ being the exception. (Note to self: Follow Natalie Gulbis.)
Traina: OK, give me you top three athletes to follow and top three non-athletes to follow.
Osterhout: OK, you already know my top three athletes on Twitter. As for celebrities, I'll stick with Shaq, and then go with MC Hammer, who has the self-deprecating humor down to a science, and that guy from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I think his name is Russell Brand. He is hilarious. Sample post: "i"m in bed with my cat morrissey. he'd be furious if he knew i was writing this. he conveys affection by milking me, sans consent. grim."
Rubenstein: Athletes -- 1) Jim Courier. He brings out the tennis nerd in me; 2) Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett. I'm 90 percent positive he's 14 years old; 3) Shaquille O'Neal. The only Twitterer I've ever allowed to put an infant's Suns jersey on me. Non-Athletes -- 1) Aziz Ansari; 2) Michael Ausiell, the Entertainment Weekly TV writer who lets me in on such inside info as "This just in: BRAVO ANNOUNCES DEVELOPMENT OF THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF D.C.; 3) Kogi BBQ.
Hildenbrandt: Well, the conversation needs to start with Pete Carroll, if only because it's entirely possible that he'll drop a reference to OMC's How Bizarre 45 seconds after talking about his depth on the defensive line. Plus, he's trying to act cool for the sake of recruiting, and that sort of thing never really gets old. Also, the Barry Zito feed is pretty tremendous because it feels like you're reading the text of an advanced philosophy text book. If you're high at 3 a.m., it's the perfect place for you to go in search of the meaning of life. I can't forget about Justin Morneau's feed and all it's generic beauty, as it is glaringly obvious that his Twitter has been commandeered by some Justin Morneau superfan roaming the Twittersphere.
As for non-athletes, wow, so many to choose from. I enjoy the randomness of Kenny Mayne, whose feed will be in hibernation for days on end before erupting into a flurry of 25 straight updates. I appreciate Tony Robbins, who helps me feel better about my life. I am enamored with Tila Tequila's feed because it is so erratic and illogical that I'm convinced it's the best working model for the female brain. And finally, I've heard the Ty Hildenbrandt feed is really something special ...
Dan Rubenstein hosts and produces the SI Tour Guy video series for SI.com and co-hosts The Solid Verbal podcast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ty Hildenbrandt writes for SI.com and co-hosts The Solid Verbal podcast. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter. Jacob E. Osterhout is a features reporter for the New York Daily News and a former writer for Sports Illustrated On Campus. His work can also be found at theCollege Sports Examiner.
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