A weird thing about being in Thailand — which is physically closer to the U.S. than is the UAE, and by several thousand miles — is an even bigger sense of disconnect from American sports.
It’s the time zones.
By 10 a.m. UAE time, just about every sports event “last night” in the U.S. is over.
In Thailand, which is 15 hours ahead of PST, the whole of the West Coast night action is just starting, at that same 10 a.m. mark.
Anyway, several big stories, and let’s pass over them.
—Kobe Bryant signs two-year extension with the Lakers for $48.5 million per year. I like this, mostly. The Lakers have been the rare franchise where great players see out their careers. George Mikan, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson, James Worthy … Kobe? That sets them apart in the modern NBA. Also, in the coming lean year(s), watching Kobe go for the career scoring record might be one of the few entertaining concepts. And, Lakers fans like the guy. My quibble is with the size of the contract. Who were the Lakers bidding against? No one, at anything like that amount of money. I think maybe Kobe would have stuck around for, say, $20 million, leaving the Lakers with $8 million to spend on complementary players over the next two years.
—Landon Donovan is interested in playing for the English Premier League side Everton during the winter, but L.A. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena blocks any move. At first blush, this seems like a good thing; Landon, who turns 32 in March, probably needs the time off to be healthy and happy for the start of the MLS season and, more importantly, the World Cup. Also, what, exactly is he going to learn, at his age, that would offset the real chance of hurting himself in the wet and cold of a Liverpool winter?
But this could be more complicated. Apparently, Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. national team coach, has encouraged MLS-based players to take loans to Europe to play, in January. After that became clear, Landon said he would be willing to make a third winter visit to Everton, but did he really want to do that, after the “break” of a year ago? Does Arena know that and is helping Landon out by saying: “No, he can’t go.” Maybe so.
—USC hires Steve Sarkisian as football coach. I like this. Of course, I am predisposed to like whatever athletic director Pat Haden does, because I think he’s a very smart guy who knows what should work at USC. I also like that “Sark” was an important USC assistant during the Pete Carroll years. What creeps me out a little is that Sark got Washington off the mat (0-12 before he arrived) but in five years he didn’t turn them into a power, or even a contender to win the Pac-12. I also worry about the issues raised by Ivan Maisel, who wonders if USC will try to replicate, by hiring Carroll assistants for years to come, what Alabama chased, post-Bear Bryant, when the Tide hired coach after coach who had worked with Bryant, which usually didn’t work out. Is USC chasing the same dream?
—Dodgers open to trading Matt Kemp. Remember that moment in time, at the end of the 2011 season, when he looked like the greatest player in baseball? Now, he looks like a fragile, aging guy with a $160 million contract that runs through 2019. I have been critical of Kemp’s baseball savvy, but I would be careful about trading him, even at age 29. It seems as if 28 is now widely considered the turning point, in a player’s career, when he starts to go south … but the risk of him popping one or two more big years seems too great. Trade Andre Ethier, if you want to move one of those “starting” outfielders.