Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

The late-night fate of Europe’s NBA fans

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By Phil O’Connor Being a fan of any team is usually a thankless task. But following the fortunes of an NBA team from Europe – especially at this time of the year – is bordering on masochism. I fell for the charms of the world’s best basketball league back in the eighties, when Magic Johnson and his “Showtime” Lakers and Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics were the two top teams it had. The duels between Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Robert “the Chief” Parrish, the scoring and rebounding of James Worthy and Kevin McHale, the deep threat of Danny Ainge – not to mention Bird and Johnson – hooked me for life on the game. The advent of Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Clyde Drexler only added to it, and the Dream Team at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 completed the NBA’s takeover of world basketball consciousness. It might seem odd that a teenager from a non-basketball nation like Ireland would fall for its charms, but given Boston’s large Irish community and the fact that there was a good likelihood I’d wind up emigrating there, it wasn’t so strange after all. I was also the tallest kid in the class all through school, which meant that if I was going to be good at any sport, I’d have a head start in basketball. Long before the internet, games and scores were followed under the covers in our Dublin home, thanks to the late-night broadcasts on the US Armed Forces Radio station. I’d often fall asleep waiting on the sports report or whatever game was on to finish. Back then, Bird was my hero, and not just for his shooting ability; his passing was breathtaking, and anyone who has ever played any ball-sport will recognise his outstanding ability and vision. I might never have become a resident of “Southie”, and I may have flirted with the greatness of His Airness when Jordan was at his peak, but the Celtics have always been my team. Nowadays it’s easier to keep up with their progress than ever before, but the advent of games streamed live on the internet has been both a pleasure and a chore. As summer begins in Europe, it means a lot of very late nights as the Celtics do battle with the Miami Heat for supremacy in the Eastern Conference. As a sports reporter, I don’t have a normal working life; a lot of what we cover takes place at night or at weekends, so our working days start later than most. Unfortunately, my children have yet to show an understanding of why I have to stay up until dawn watching Rajon Rondo play out of his skin, scoring 44 points and still losing game 2 in the conference final. They still get me up at 7 am, even if I’ve only just gone to bed. Days are spent in a state of mental exhaustion, and by the time I’ve recovered from one all-nighter, it’s tip-off time again. Next week I head for the European soccer championship in Kiev, Ukraine, which will only complicate my basketball fix. Hopefully I’ll have a few more sleepless nights this summer as the Celtics beat the Heat and go all the way to another championship.

Can the Clippers break the Laker stranglehold on LA?

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By Larry Fine

The Lakers have owned Los Angeles in the NBA sense for 50 years since moving to the City of Angels from the Land of 10,000 Lakes where they were born the Minneapolis Lakers.

 Now with a startling suddenness since the end of the NBA lockout, the famed franchise with its 16 NBA titles looks ripe for a challenge for local hoops supremacy from their Staples Center co-tenants – the perennially sad-sack Los Angeles Clippers.

All I want for Christmas is…NBA – five teams and players to watch

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The new NBA season took a while to come around after a five-month lockout spent negotiating an improved labor agreement. What better day to start than Dec. 25. Merry Christmas!

Read the season preview here courtesy of Larry Fine, and our American sports editor Julian Linden weighs in with five players to watch as well as five teams sure to set pulses racing over the shortened 66-game programme.

Heat may need a big man to take pressure off Big Three

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NBA/Now that all of the hype surrounding the Miami Heat’s season opener against the Boston Celtics is over, the question remains: how good is this team?

Clearly the Big Three, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, underperformed, especially the latter two, who combined for just seven of 27 shooting from the floor.

Big shoes to fill for small U.S. basketball team

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The United States enters this weekend’s world basketball championships with a squad chock full of gifted NBA players but they will be lacking a dominating inside presence.

When the Americans last won the title, in 1994, seven-foot-one Shaquille O’Neal was a towering presence that led the U.S. team in scoring, rebounds and blocks.

If no one shows up for a baseball game…

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Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow follows through on a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Toronto April 14, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Cassese

In North America sports culture summer is the time for baseball. The MLB season kicks off in early April and for the most part flies under the radar for the first few months as fans’ attention is focused on the NBA playoffs, the NFL draft and to a lesser extend the NHL playoffs.

By the middle of June an NBA champion is crowned, (sorry LeBron, maybe next year with your new team) the NFL is as far removed from the ever watchful media’s eye as it ever is, (thank you Brian Cushing, OTA’s were still a few weeks away) and the NHL playoff run receives unprecedented media coverage…in Canada.

King James may find a new castle

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LeBron James is sounding like his days with the Cleveland Cavaliers are numbered.

The heavily-favoured Cavaliers were moved to the brink of elimination by the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night and the NBA’s best player sounded, if not disinterested, distracted.

When politics enters sports

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For many people, watching a ball game represents a chance to escape the problems of everyday life.

Money problems melt away, at least for a few seconds, when watching LeBron James take off from the foul line and rip down a rim-rattling, backboard-swaying slam dunk. Watching Albert Pujols slug a three-run homer into the upper deck with two runners on in the bottom of the ninth can make one forget, albeit briefly, painful family issues.

Pain is an afterthought during playoffs

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Often casual fans define the toughness of a sport by the extent of injury that players are willing to play through.

While basketball is often overlooked, this year’s NBA playoff run is giving us several examples of players placing the goal of a team championship above their own individual bodies.

Ten events that capture the essence of American sport

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BASEBALL/Passion for sport is no greater or less in North America than in other countries but there is a difference. The focus here is unashamedly on the domestic, with an ambivalent attitude among many fans about what the rest of the sports world is doing or thinks.

On the same day that Woods held his first media conference before this month’s US Masters at Augusta, an event that was streamed live around the globe, the hottest topic of conversation in North America was who would win that night’s college basketball final between Duke and Butler.

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