Sunday, August 06, 2017


The season never ends in world soccer. The top clubs are all over the world in the summer. Manchester City have played in the States and in Iceland. The EPL season starts next Saturday.

In both soccer and in the NBA the summer mostly is time to stock up for the long grind of fall then winter then spring and to the cusp of summer again. And I am having doubts.

This was the summer, between Pep Guardiola's first and second regular seasons, when City were to be remade in His image. Director of football Txiki Begiristain, like Pep a former Barcelonan, is tasked with doing that as he has been since 2012.

I have had doubts about Begiristain before. He has some big misses on players who he brought in. His predecessor, Gary Cook, did not have many misses. And Begiristain has missed on players he targeted but who signed elsewhere. This summer Dani Alves signed with PSG and Alexis Sanchez, I am increasingly confident, will stay at Arsenal. Gary Cook almost always got his "whale" and misjudged very few of those he boated. This summer an idiot blogger need not rest his doubts solely on his own idiotic judgment, he can rest on Pep's: "I think we need someone else, something else, a little bit more."

If one stood on the cliffs of Lizard Point, Cornwall, England and looked southwest, down the North Atlantic, past the whaling region, if one's eyes were good enough to see across 6,838 miles of ocean, one would see, improbably rising like Xanadu out of the Atlantic, Miami, Florida, USA, home, for our purposes, of the NBA team known as the "Heat."

Lording over the fortunes of the "Heat" is, as he has for twenty years, Pat Riley. It has been a quiet summer on Biscayne Bay. The NBA off-season has been hot, hot, hot but they are the sounds of silence one hears from Pat Riley who stands nearly mute this summer. Riley failed to land mini-whale Gordon Hayward, did get a modest catch in Kelly Olynyk, and is not going to board legitimate whale Kyrie Irving. Most notably Riley decided to fashion the franchise for the near future from the flotsam and jetsam (we are switching metaphors) he found floating around in past restocking periods: Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Johnson, et al. Miraculously Riley and Andy Elisburg and Erik Spoelstra took this driftwood and, over the second half of last season, made of their leaking, listing, going-in-circles vessel something of a yacht.

Do they see where others do not? Or are they blind? Is Riley too old? Does the fire not burn as hotly as it once did? Or has the red-hot steel cooled into sharper-edged judgment? I unsay nothing that I have said about this summer of silence in Miami: they were at a significant disadvantage in the pursuit of Hayward (and still Riley almost convinced him); they had no reasonable shot at Kevin Durant last summer; they should pull in their lines whenever they spot Irving out there, they do have something special in the 7/11 and Johnson & Johnson combos, they are Team Happy, lit by the million-watt smile of their man-child #youngwhiteside.

But...I read my betters, Greg Cote and Ira Winderman, ESPN and Sports Illustrated. Riley has not pounced as he once did, boldly trading Glen Rice for Alonzo Mourning, Lamar Odom and Caron Butler for Shaquille O'Neal, draft picks for LeBron James, the biggest of whales, Zo and Shaq and LeBron, who delivered Riley three gold championship rings.

I wonder if Riley, at 72, has Malibu on his mind more than Miami. I don't think so but I don't know so. I wonder less that Txiki Begiristain has Barca on the brain for I am certain of it. Doubts will be erased in Miami and in Manchester this season. This is a make-or-break year for the Miami "Happiness" and for Pat Riley's reputation, and in Manchester for Txiki Begiristain.