From the "7-Up Stinks Studios" -- and remember about Friday's mailbag -- here we go...
Dallas Mavericks' Shawn Marion, left and Dirk Nowitzki react during the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Wednesday, May 25, 2011, in Dallas. Dallas won 100-96 and advanced to the NBA Finals. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Dirk leads Dallas into finals
Almost immediately after his team had quashed the young Thunder, Dirk Nowitzki recalibrated his goals. And his team's.
"We already have one of these trophies," Nowitzki told the AP of the reward for winning the Western Conference.
The Dallas Mavericks likely will play the Miami Heat, who have a "Big 3." Or Dallas could face the Chicago Bulls, who have league MVP Derrick Rose.
Well, Dallas has Dirk, and that's been enough to this point.
In fact, here's saying Dirk has had the best postseason run since Carlos Beltran turned a hot run with the Houston Astros into a nine-figure contract. Dirk has become one of the game's best closers (he's averaging right at 10 points in the fourth quarter in these playoffs) and has been automatic at the free-throw line (he hit 60 of 62 against the Thunder).
Dirk has catapulted from star to superstar in these playoffs, and gives the Mavs a chance against the Heat and makes the Mavs the favorite if the Bulls advance.
As for the Thunder, who have two young stars -- NBA scoring-leader Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook -- and a strong foundation, the future looks bright. But this offseason could be huge, Huge, HUGE for this franchise. The burn and the pain of coming close always motivates teams/players that become champions. And if the NBA labor issues force this young team to idle for months, this experience may not be as valuable as it could be.
If Durant and Westbrook lead this team into its next phase of growth, the Thunder will be an NBA contender for a decade. If not, in five years we'll be wondering where the-then-27-year- old Durant will take his talents after his "Decision."
Atlanta Braves' Brooks Conrad, second from right, leaps at home plate as he is congratulated by teammates after hitting a walk-off grand slam to beat the Cincinnati Reds 10-9 in a baseball game in Atlanta on Thursday, May 20, 2010. (AP Photo/The Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Curtis Compton)
Grand numbers of baseball
Those of us that grew up loving baseball have an insane love for the numbers and stats that connect the generations and the eras.
Here are some that have popped up in the last couple of days that the 5-at-10 thought were interesting:
-- Drew Brees revealed at the Best of Preps banquet that he grew up loving baseball and that he and his brother used to watch old baseball highlights. He patterned his swing after Ken Griffey Jr.'s, and his favorite all-time player was Ted Williams. In fact, Brees said the reason he wears No. 9 is because of Williams.
-- Brooks Conrad's two-run homer in the 11th lifted the Braves over the Pirates 4-2 Wednesday. It was Conrad's third game-winning homer in the ninth inning or later in a little more than a year. According to the Elias Sports Bureau (and those guys flat-out know their stuff), Conrad has as many game-winning homers in the ninth inning or later as J.D. Drew and Derek Jeter combined.
-- It also was Conrad's fourth go-ahead pinch-hit homer for the Braves. That's the most in the last 60 years for the franchise.
-- New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera appeared in his 1,000th game Wednesday. He is the first pitcher to appear in 1,000 games with one team, and he'll be the last player to ever wear the No. 42.
In this Jan. 13, 2010 photo, Lane Kiffin speaks as he is introduced as Southern California football coach in Los Angeles. Coaching changes at Notre Dame, Southern California and Tennessee have added intrigue to the end of the recruiting season as three of the nation's marquee programs have scrambled to hold on to their blue chippers. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) Writer:
And the Trojans face the music
The NCAA reportedly denied USC's appeal and upheld the penalties it handed down last year.
USC and coach Lane Kiffin filed the appeal earlier this year to delay the penalties and to enable Kiffin and Co. to sign a full recruiting class in February.
Now it's time to pay the piper.
The penalties are stiff -- losing 30 scholarships over the next three years and no postseason this year, be it the Pac-12 title game or a bowl game. And it feels like there was an extra little kicker for the appeal and full signing calls (a move that feels like a classic Kiffin thumbing-his-nose-at-everyone move).
The NCAA continued the provision that gives USC upperclassmen the ability to transfer to any FBS schools without the typical one-year sit-out period. So any USC senior that wants to transfer can and play this fall.
LaQuisha Jackson poses in her ready stance recently at the Howard track. Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press
There are a handful of area high school sports programs that are dominant. Year-in, year-out these teams are always contending for championships.
Baylor girls' golf, South Pittsburg football, Bradley Central and Baylor wrestling are among the first ones that come to mind -- and let's not forget Soddy-Daisy softball, which moved into the winners-bracket final with two wins Wednesday.
In fact, congrats all around to the area teams that survived bracket play Wednesday and to the Baylor girls' tennis team for winning the Division II state title.
Spring Fling action is awesome. Playing high school baseball in Georgia in the late 1980s, we had state playoffs in each sport but they were isolated. The idea of putting all the spring championships together in one week at one venue (well, in one wide neighborhood, any way) is outstanding.
The TSSAA got this one right. Big time. We'll add it to the "Blind squirrel -- finding nuts" file.
And gang, one of the true stars of our high school sports scene will take center stage at the fling today. LaQuisha Jackson, the Howard sprinter who won her second Female Athlete of the Year Award this week at the Best of Preps banquet, will be in action today. This girl can fly, and she's taking aim at state records in the 100 and the 200 and maybe the relays.
Want to know who holds the 100 and 200 state records? Yep, LaQuisha Jackson.
Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Wilson Valdez relief pitches in the 19th inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, early Thursday, May 26, 2011, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 5-4, in 19 innings. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
This and that
-- Worth the price of a ticket: The Phillies needed 19 innings to beat the Reds early Thursday morning. The game lasted more than 6 hours and second baseman Wilson Valdez got the win. Valdez, who hit 90 on the radar gun, is the first non-pitcher to get a win since catcher Brett Mayne beat the Braves in 2000.
-- Kim Clijsters was upset today at the French Open. Not much else to add, just thought we'd pass it along. Hey, Oso, add this to the summer topic list: Today's pro tennis: Friend or foe?
Seriously, it's hard to remember the last time we sat down and watched more than a few points of a tennis match. Maybe Federer-Nadal at Wimbledon a few years ago?
-- West Virginia made some waves by hiring offensive guru Dana Holgorsen and putting him on the fast track to take over the WVU football program in 2012. Well, Holgorsen was apparently escorted by security from a casino recently. Details are thin right now, but this does not look like a good way to start his time in Morgantown. Who knows, maybe he was looking for a bank of pay phones or maybe he was upset that the casino was not beeper friendly?
-- Former Rhea County High School star Kevin Revis is leaving UT. He is the ninth player from the 2009 signing class -- yes, that was Kiffin's lone recruiting class at UT -- that is no longer in the program.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...