Everything you need to know heading into the weekend in the world of sports.
The biggest story of the week by far was the U.S. Men’s National Team falling to Belgium 2-1 in the Round of 16, bringing Team USA’s run in the 2014 World Cup to an abrupt halt. Despite the loss, the game was very entertaining, with goaltender Tim Howard becoming an internet meme sensation after making 16 saves. #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave was trending on Twitter, and celebrities and athletes chimed in.
I just tried to follow Tim Howard on twitter. Got blocked.—
Brent Celek (@BrentCelek) July 01, 2014
The World Cup has been a ratings success, with the US-Belgium game drawing over 21.5 million viewers. As good a rating that is, Adam believes that the World Cup is its own separate event, and that we won’t see a spike in the popularity of soccer in America as a result.
I will preface this by saying I am not a soccer fan, but I agree with Adam’s take. It seems like every four years, we hear about how soccer is going to take off and be the next greatest sport in America. I don’t see it. Sure, a few people might check out their local MLS team after getting into the World Cup, but the best players in the world play overseas. Our best athletes will continue to play football and basketball while they’re growing up, whether it’s the “I can get on SportsCenter” mentality or the fact that they think they’ll make more money professionally in the NFL than in MLS.
Some fans might cite the TV ratings and believe that soccer is on par by beating the World Series or NBA Finals, but we’re not united as a country rooting for the Red Sox or Cardinals in the Fall Classic like we are watching Team USA in the World Cup. I’m a Yankees fan, but I personally have little interest in the World Series if the Yankees aren’t in it, and if I am watching, it’s ambient noise while I’m sitting on the couch and fooling around on the iPad. I don’t expect soccer to become the second or third most popular sport in the U.S. behind football, but I do expect that we’ll have this conversation again after the 2018 World Cup.
Interview of the week
Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak joined the program this week and shared his thoughts on a variety of topics, including first-round draft pick Julius Randle, the health of future Hall Of Famer Kobe Bryant and the Lakers plans for NBA free agency.
Kupchak didn’t get into specifics, but did acknowledge that the Lakers historically like to make splashes when asked if they were going to go “big-game hunting” in free agency. They’re reportedly set to meet with Carmelo Anthony, and would like to meet with LeBron James. They’re also in the running to retain Pau Gasol. The biggest key for the Lakers this upcoming season, though, will be the health of Bryant, and Kupchak says that “he looks fine to me.” If the Lakers can get the Kobe of old back, they could get back in the playoff race in the Western Conference with some savvy personnel moves this offseason.
Underrated story of the week
If NBA free agency kicking off on Tuesday is the main course, then the story that Jason Kidd failed in an attempted power play in the Nets organization is the juicy appetizer that got you going this week.
Kidd reportedly tried to gain more power in the Nets organization by getting moved above GM Billy King in the hierarchy in Brooklyn, and the Nets were having none of that. Not after he embarrassed himself and the organization by intentionally spilling a soda on the court when the team was out of timeouts as a stalling tactic, and certainly not after he lobbied for Lawrence Frank to be paid $1 million per year, only to be reassigned halfway through his only season in Brooklyn. One source from the Tim Bontemps piece above said, “The Russians are done with Kidd,” which may be one of the greatest quotes in history. Kidd has a long and checkered history, and this is just the latest example of why the Nets never should have hired him as the coach in the first place.
The Nets dealt Kidd’s rights to the Milwaukee Bucks, and Milwaukee introduced him as their new coach on Wednesday (after firing Larry Drew). Lionel Hollins will be introduced as the new coach of the Nets on Monday, so it looks like the Nets did pretty well in the deal. Hollins has reached the Western Conference finals with the Grizzlies, and the Nets get a pair of second round picks to boot – all while Milwaukee gets to deal with the inevitable bad press that always seems to follow Kidd around.
GIF of the week
As I mentioned earlier, Tim Howard made a lot of saves against Belgium. The 16 saves he made are the most in a World Cup match since they started keeping track. Here they are, in GIF form!
What to watch this weekend
There are plenty of sports on the radio this Fourth of July weekend. You could check out the quarterfinals of the World Cup on Friday and Saturday, the Wimbledon final for both the ladies and gentlemen on Saturday and Sunday, and your favorite MLB team throughout the weekend. Of course, you should also check out your local fireworks extravaganza on Friday night (weather permitting).
Have a great, safe Fourth of July weekend!