Checking It Twice

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The SEVEN

by Mack Williams

24 December 2014

As Santa Claus prepares to leave the stores in the mall and return to the North Pole for his annual marathon trek around the world with Rudolph and the crew, let’s look at a few people to determine whether they are eligible for gifts based on whether they’ve been naughty or nice this year.
I. Pop

Gregg Popovich, that is…the coach of the world champion San Antonio Spurs – a moniker that is truly applicable in their case, considering the international makeup of their roster. Naughty or Nice: as a five-time championship coach that is revolutionizing the NBA with his concept of resting players, definitely nice.

Present wanted from Santa: a 2015 without the injuries that have hampered them so far this season…although about 2/3 of the league’s teams would love to have the 18-11 record the Spurs currently have.
II. Cuban

Not Raul Castro – the Cuban President who has already gotten his present with the announcement that the Obama administration is moving towards normalization of relations with Cuba. Mark Cuban, the maverick owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Naughty or Nice: well, David Stern would definitely say that can go either way with Mark.

Present from Santa: the Mavs already got it, in the person of recently acquired point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo, a certified triple double machine and arguably the league’s best passer, could be the piece that Dallas needs to dethrone the Spurs.
III. Fish

The word was that when Derek Fisher was being considered for the head coaching position of the New York Knicks, he would have been welcomed back – by players, coaches, and management alike – for another season as a veteran backup guard with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Naughty or Nice: definitely nice. Fisher had an excellent career, filled with big plays, game-winning shots, and those five championship rings he collected with the Lakers, for whom he will be most remembered.

That said, he – or someone in the Knick front office – has to have done something rather naughty, considering the Knicks’ 5-25 record so far. When at home in bed, Fish must be at least somewhat second-guessing his decision to leave OKC. Present wanted from Santa: a merciful and quick end to this season…although anyone can make a run and put themselves in position to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
IV. Lance

There are rumors afloat that a reunion of the Pacers and the recently-departed Lance Stephenson is being or has been discussed. Naughty or Nice: apparently some of Lance’s former Pacer teammates believe the answer is naughty. LeBron James might think so after the ear-blowing piece last spring.

But it’s not a stretch at all to say that Lance is still in the process of maturing, both as a player and as an individual. When he gets there, we may be looking at one of the top ten players in the game. The Pacers might be fortunate if Santa drops him back under their tree.
V. Padres

San Diego – a place I’ve never visited in any of my numerous trips to California – has been said to be one of the most beautiful places in the country. Petco Park – the home of the San Diego Padres – looks like a beautiful stadium. Unfortunately, all of this beauty has not translated into too many Padre wins on the field. But the Padres did have one of the nicest players of all time, the late Tony Gwynn.

So Santa must have considered them to be in the nice column as they acquired the sometimes-maligned Matt Kemp and Justin Upton. Their new outfield – which also includes former Ray rookie of the year Wil Myers – should propel the Padres into contention in the NL West. (Of course, the Los Angeles Dodgers – with their early gift of a new double play combination of Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick – and the even-numbered year champion San Francisco Giants may have something to say about it.)
VI. Ali

When you’re flipping channels and come across the Ali movie – or anything Ali, for that matter – you have to stop and watch the rest, as happened to me earlier in the week, just after reading that he was hospitalized with pneumonia. Here’s hoping that Ali – the nicest boxer of all time – gets a gift of good health.

As for the sport of boxing, Santa should bring it another Ali, or Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, Roberto Duran. On a sign outside Madison Square Garden promoting a WWE event are pictures of two of the WWE’s biggest stars, John Cena and Randy Orton. Until the heavyweight champion is more recognizable than John Cena – which I’m sure he is not…certainly not to me – boxing has issues.
VII. Lynch

No, not Willie Lynch, though some might want to draw parallels. Patrick Lynch, the president of the New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. Lynch stated that the blood of the two officers slain on Saturday “starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor.” He blames Bill de Blasio for not cracking down on protestors upset about the lack of justice for the families of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, as well as for telling his bi-racial son that he may need to be careful in encounters with police. Naughty or Nice: definitely naughty!

If only Santa could bring him some wisdom, and the realization that the overwhelming majority of the protestors in New York and around the country are not protesting against police as a whole. The protests are against police brutality committed by bad and racist police, and not against the majority of police that seek to do a good job. We need police, and want to work in tandem with the police for the good of our communities. The sooner people like Lynch realize we are not looking for an adversarial relationship, the better things will be.

With that said, it’s time to get Santa’s snack together. Merry Christmas to all!

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