Gambo and I didn't win the Powerball. The Suns didn't win the lottery.
Life goes on.
In the end, the result is something you can certainly live with. Gambo and I couldn't retire, but we still have a pretty cool gig. And the Suns have the fifth pick in the draft. While it's always preferable to improve your lot in life, Ryan McDonough will have plenty of decent options to sift through:
It would be wrong to assume there are no impact players in this year's draft. Just ask Golden State. A combined 22 players went off the board before they selected Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. They're out there and now it's up to McDonough to take his reputation for a test spin and find them. Maybe it's one of those players. Maybe it's Trey Burke, Alex Len, C.J. McCollum or Shabazz Muhammad.
On an unrelated note, if you're a conspiracy theorist (I'm looking right at you, Doug Franz), it's pretty easy to decipher why the top pick landed in Cleveland. Clearly David Stern knows LeBron is going back to the Cavs in a year, so he's doing his best to make sure LBJ has a talent crew around him.
I've found that the best source of movie reviews is the kid working behind the popcorn counter. They've seen everything that's out; you won't get any movie-critic-artsy-fartsy nonsense -- just a good, common-people review of what's at the multiplex.
Wednesday night, I'm waiting to see Star Trek, and the popcorn kid tells me that what I should be seeing is Mud with Mathew McConaughey, which is funny because he's now the third person to share this with me. In a summer movie season filled with blockbusters like Iron Man, Star Trek and the upcoming Hangover 3 and Man of Steel, it's Mathew freakin' McConaughey claiming scoreboard with his 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The author's premise, in this case NFL writer Chris Burke, is to praise the Cardinals for their work this offseason while acknowledging reality; they play in the NFC West. The 49ers are loaded. The Seahawks are loaded. They are not only the two best teams in the division but perhaps the conference, heck maybe in the NFL. Oh yeah, and St. Louis kinda killed it in the draft and look to be trending upwards.
Burke suggests that the Cardinals could be vastly improved in 2013 with nary an extra win to show for it. I agree with the premise but with one caveat I'll get to in a second.
I agree the Cardinals have had a good great offseason. There are question marks that can't be glossed over -- Daryl Washington's dicey status and the selection of Tyrann Mathieu in particular -- but between the draft, free agency and the acquisition of Carson Palmer, I think Keim and company nailed it.
I agree with the notion that it might not matter in this division. Box office is all that matters in Hollywood and I'm pretty sure Mud ain't gettin' any.
What if something happens to Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson? What if NFL defensive coordinators, with a year's worth of tape as reference, figure out a way to slow their attacks? What if one of those teams is besieged by injuries? It's the NFL, it happens.
I understand the "what if" argument isn't the most sound one, but all you have to do is go back and look at preseason predictions from any year to understand that very little in this league goes according to script. You have to be prepared when they don't and I believe the Cardinals are prepared.
The 49ers are Iron Man. The Seahawks are Star Trek. The Cardinals are Mud, and I mean that in the nicest way.
It's been eight years since the Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Justin Upton; he spent six seasons in a D-backs uniform, was traded four months ago and will play against his former team for the first time Monday night.
And I still haven't figured him out.
When Upton steps onto that field Monday, is he the hero or the villain?
I was hoping by now for clarity regarding one of the most enigmatic athletes to ever play in Arizona, but as I sit to write this, I realize I have more questions about Upton than I ever did when he was here.
Why were the Diamondbacks so intent on trading him? Or, more to the point, why did they actively put themselves in a position where they had no choice but to trade him?
Will he ever reach this much talked about ceiling or is this who he is? And by "this" I mean a wildly talented player who routinely fluctuates between greatness and just so-so-ness. Some like to point out that he's only 25. I like to counter that he has amassed nearly 2,800 at bats in his major league career.
I don't want to see him fail but I sure as hell don't want to see him kill it either. Why is that?
More than anything though -- this was something Nick Piecoro touched upon in his Upton story this weekend -- how different would this all have turned out if Upton had gone on the DL for his thumb injury a year ago? If he sits and heals and has a second half as dominant as his 2011 season, I can't imagine the Diamondbacks would have moved him. And why didn't he go on the DL? He said he wanted to play through it. Fine. Wasn't it then incumbent on the D-backs to be the grown-ups here and make him get healthy? Guys play through injuries all the time, I get it, but if he can't even grip a bat properly, it sure seems counter-productive to run him out there every day.
The answers aren't likely to come over these next three games. If Upton has a great series but the D-backs win two of three, who won? Who lost?
Just because something starts the same way doesn't mean, by rule, it has to end the same way.
You and I can go to the same restaurant and have completely different experiences. Between the waiters, the chef, the food, the hostess and the valet attendant (I don't usually valet the car but I needed one more example), it's all a series of twists and turns that potentially yields uncommon results. Bear that in mind when I make the following comparison:
Ryan McDonough reminds me of Josh Byrnes.
Not the man, mind you, the situation. I write this having not met him yet -- that moment comes Thursday when Gambo and I host the show from US Airways Center.
Young, bright, super innovative, a blend of the new world analytics and the old school, eyeballs-on-the-target scouting, a pedigree of working with some of the best in the industry. A highly-praised selection from the moment it was announced.
Now, we all know Byrnes' tenure with the Diamondbacks did not end well, be it the Eric Byrnes contract or letting A.J. Hinch ride shotgun from the manager's seat.
But at the beginning, there was hope. Hope that the D-backs made a wise choice. Hope that Byrnes would stabilize a ship that was floundering from bad signings (Russ Ortiz), bad decisions (Wally Backman) and bad PR (Jerry Colangelo shown the door).
He ushered in what was presumed to be an era of believability. For a long while it was just that.
The hope is that McDonough can do the same. I have yet to read one credible NBA observer who doesn't think the Suns absolutely killed it with this hire. When Lon Babby was on our show Tuesday, even he joked that it's been a long time since he's heard widely praised and his name in the same sentence.
McDonough has a mess to cleanup himself: Michael Beasley, mediocre draft picks, a plethora of future picks, and a coaching carousel that made us all nauseous.
I am as hopeful today about McDonough as I was that day about Byrnes.
I am even more hopeful that just because their tales start the same way, doesn't mean it has to end so.
Watching Steph Curry in these playoffs has been a whole lot of bitter and just a little bit of sweet for Suns fans.
The Warriors guard has emerged as one of the best players during these playoffs. A tier-one NBA star? No, but certainly one of the top players in the second tier and a guy Suns fans will forever recognize as the one who got away.
That's what makes his emergence this spring as bitter as a piece of dark chocolate served with an IPA. The night of the 2009 NBA Draft, it was the whoop heard round the world, the one that burst from the Suns draft room thinking they had just acquired Curry.
Steve Kerr told Gambo and I months ago that, yes, they thought they nabbed him that night. And Bob Young of azcentral did a nice job playing the what-if card regarding Curry and the Suns.
The Suns could have had him. The good news is that they could again. Well, kinda/sorta.
Sometime this week (that's a guess, but I think a good one) the Suns will hire a GM. On May 21, we'll watch the lottery to see what pick that new talent evaluator will have at his disposal. On June 27, that man gets the chance to put his stamp on this franchise using a premium pick -- something that hasn't happened in decades.
This is the part where you have to remind yourself that Curry wasn't a top pick. He wasn't a top-five pick. He was the seventh pick, a guy who came into the league with a whole lot of talent and a whole lot of question marks. Sound familiar? Sure sounds to me like, oh I don't know, just about every player in this year's draft.
The point is, that franchise-changer is out there. Somewhere in this draft is a guy who can alter your fortunes. And it's up to Ryan McDonough or Jeff Weltman or whomever to find him.
Maybe, just maybe, he'll be good enough to allow you to forget the night the Suns found, and lost, their franchise-changer.
The first month of the Arizona Diamondbacks season is over and it's provided enough talking points to fill a whole season. Here are my top five.
1. The bullpen
The D-backs have blown 10 saves. The Major League average through the first month of the season is three. The problem is that it's not just one guy; just about everybody (Putz, Bell, Hernandez, Sipp) is fighting it right now. So there aren't a ton of decisions to be made. No one to promote or demote, and in that regard it's somewhat liberating. You don't have a choice; the guys in the pen just need to do better unless you plan on making Matt Reynolds your closer -- which you most certainly will not do. One note of irony; the D-backs won six of the 10 games in which they blew a save. Go figure.
2. Ian Kennedy is not an ace
A return to his 2011 form was part of the blueprint for the 2013 D-backs but it just hasn't happened yet. In fact, Kennedy continues to look more like last year's model. Ace of this staff? The guy I would want starting in game one of a playoff series? A good guy? Good teammate? Good competitor? Yes on all counts. A Major League "ace"? I fear Ian has been miscast in that role.
3. The Upton thing
Here is a tweet from the PR arm of Major League Baseball:
Justin Upton of @braves named NL Player of the Month for April. 12 HR & .734 SLG were tops in @mlb.
Aaron Hill. Adam Eaton. Jason Kubel. Didi Gregorius. Willie Bloomquist. At some point they'll get these key cogs back, and when they do they'll be a different looking team. But until then, you must...
5. Continue to survive
Which they have done a fine job of up until this point. Between the injuries, blown saves, the Upton thing, the slow starts of Miguel Montero and Martin Prado and the inconsistent starting pitching, the D-backs have been able to stay close. More than that, they were in first place before the nightmare series against the Giants. Paul Goldschmidt, Gerardo Parra, Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley all have had a lot to do with that.
Guess who finished in the top five? The Cardinals, of course.
Number five to be exact. Of the Cardinals, the site wrote this:
5. Arizona Cardinals
Highest Grade: A (Prisco, Cole)
Lowest Grade: C+ (Silva)
Comments: The Cardinals and Vikings tied for fifth and had the same lowest grade, but Arizona had a lower standard deviation so we'll list them fifth here. The Cardinals addressed one of their major needs with their first pick and continued to add contributors throughout the draft, even if some (Mathieu) come with notable asterisks. Prisco and Cole were both very high on fourth-round pick Alex Okafor, who has the potential to be a huge steal. Silva praised most decisions but thought more should've been done to address the offensive line and the long-term need at quarterback.
Look, I haven't been too shy about my feelings regarding the Tyrann Mathieu pick. It felt like an unnecessarily large risk, one that could cast Patrick Peterson in the role of babysitter as much as a mentor.
The fact that Tony Dungy -- the man who elevated mentoring to an art form -- said on The Dan Patrick Show that he would not have drafted him didn't make me feel any better.
"I wouldn't have. Not after I know everything LSU did to help him, it's going to be a long road," Dungy said.
But it's done. It's over. And now it's up to Mathieu to make it work; earn some trust and some money.
It certainly won't detract from what I feel was a shrewdly executed draft by Steve Keim. It appears many, whose eyes are far more experienced than mine, agree.
With a chance to sleep on it, here are three quick thoughts about the Cardinals selection of Jonathan Cooper and what the future holds on Friday:
• Coach Bruce Arians made it pretty clear Cooper was a starter. Refreshing. One of my major pet peeves (and you know I'm not alone of this one) of the Ken Whisenhunt era was his reluctance to acknowledge that an incoming rookie might be a better football player than the one already on the roster. Competition is a great motivator and I understand the concept of making a guy earn it. But if you're worried about a player feeling entitled to a spot just because he was drafted, then you probably drafted the wrong player in the first place.
• Watching Miami give up their second round pick (42) to Oakland to move up from #12 to #3, the natural thought is to wonder why the Cardinals didn't do the same thing to go get their tackle. Then you wake up this morning and see the wealth of options available at #38 and you're thrilled (at least I was) that they stayed put. On a team with as many holes as the Cardinals, trading two starters for one just wasn't the right play. The Cards didn't have a second rounder last year and it hurt.
• Speaking of today, it's difficult to predict what the Cardinals will do today. It's like an M. Night Shyamalan movie. You know the surprise is coming; now you're just trying to figure out what it is. I'd be surprised, and disappointed, if it's a QB.
The news of Lance Blanks and the Phoenix Suns parting ways (and what precisely that means is unknown as I write this -- was he fired? Reassigned?) is stunning in only one regard; it means the three amigos, the three L's of Suns basketball, Lon, Lance and Lindsey, are breaking up. It was so easy and convenient to assume they were a package deal and it's encouraging to see that Babby can read the handwriting on the wall just as clearly as the next guy.
Simply put, Blanks had done nothing to earn the opportunity to make one more important decision. You couldn't entrust a high lottery pick with the same decision maker who gave Michael Beasley $18 million or decided, in sloppy fashion, that Lindsey Hunter was to be his handpicked coach.
And so Babby, empowered by his new deal, came to the conclusion that many had reached long ago -- the Suns can do better. Good for him for resisting what could have been a comfortable urge to give Blanks one more chance and instead opt to venture into undiscovered territory. Not that this absolves Babby from all responsibility but if talent evaluation is the problem, go hire a better evaluator. Clearly one is needed.
As for Hunter, it's easy to assume (or hope) that with a new GM comes a new coach. Presumably, Hunter just lost his biggest advocate in Blanks. Remember though, that the structure of the Suns front office is anything but typical or traditional. It's hard for me to envision it, but perhaps he stays.
What I'm curious to see now is how the rest of the league views this opening -- a question that will be answered by the candidates it attracts.
From my idealistic perception, I see the job as an opportunity to man an organization that has the fourth-highest win percentage in the history of the NBA. A once proud franchise in desperate need of a breath of fresh air akin to the James Bond or Star Trek reboots.
The pessimist in me sees a business that might have a tough time attracting top talent. A lot of capable people have walked in, and out, of those doors over the last few years. The notion of the Suns as a destination organization feels as quaint as catching a John Hughes movie on late night cable.
Whether the Suns dream big (Phil Jackson), bold (Grant Hill), bizarre (Charles Barkley) or bland (an assistant GM somewhere waiting for his big break), make no mistake -- keeping Blanks was an untenable option, one that would have elicited the worst of all reactions.