We're about 48 hours from heading to the panhandle. Hey, we're Southern, we spend a week at the Gulf in the summer. It's in the handbook. So with that in mind, let's go directional today. (Hey gang, don't forget about Friday's mailbag — we still have a spot or two open.)
From the "Talks too much" studios, here we go...
Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) drives against Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) during the first quarter of Game 4 in their NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals playoff series in Boston, Sunday, June 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
South Beach blues
If we told you the Miami Heat would outrebound Boston by 10 and hold the Celtics to 41 percent shooting in Miami, you'd feel good about the Heatles' chances right?
Well, scratch that. Miami could not knock Boston out and Boston never went away in a thrilling 94-90 win over Miami on Wednesday. The Celtics core of Rondo, Pierce, Allen and Garnett are now 9-0 in Game 5s, and as great as Garnett was and as big as Pierce's back-breaking 3 over LeBron James' outstretched hand was, it was a collection of hustle plays and loose balls that carried Boston back home with the Heat on the brink of another humiliating playoff collapse.
Is it the Celtics' want-to or the Heat's casual indifference? Is it that one team has Doc Rivers and the other has Erik Estrada's less-talented younger brother? Is it that LeBron is destined to be Dr. J 2.0 rather than MJ 2.0? (And let's be really honest here: LeBron was great last night, scoring 30 of his team's 90 points and leads them in scoring, rebounds and assists in the series and in the playoffs. But, and there's always a but with this Heat team in general and LeBron's career to date in particular, there's no way — NO WAY — MJ would have let his team lose that game last night. No way. And to be fair, MJ won his first title in his seventh season; this is year eight for LeBron).
Whatever it is, we get the rare chance to see a desperate James Gang on Thursday night in Boston. Just like we get the chance to see a desperate Spurs bunch tonight. For Miami, though, this can't be overstated, and if the Heat collapse again after building a 2-0 lead in this series, you have to believe major changes will be coming. Spolestra. Gone. Wade. Gone. Nedemeyer. Dead.
Either, the NBA playoffs have been a lot of fun. Well for everyone other than the Heatles that is.
South Beach boys in blue
Welcome back Timmy (TIMMY!) Hudson, who threw a five-hit shutout in Atlanta's 11-0 win in Miami on Tuesday. (Tuesday was a tough day for Miami. Laces OUT!)
And welcome back to the Braves offense.
And welcome back to summer fun clicking around the TV dial.
(Side note: We are a week from Dallas 2.0 on TNT. You may have seen a commercial or 16 during the NBA playoffs. TNT has not been afraid to tell us every 30 seconds that Dallas, Franklin & Bash and that show with the girl that was one of McCoy's too-pretty-to-be-a-big-time NYC DA sidekicks on Law&Order are new this summer. And who would have guessed that Zack Morris would be the most accomplished child actor of his generation?)
Anyhoo, among the Southern summer traditions — we mentioned heading to the panhandle earlier — is spending some time during June and July getting to know the ins and outs of the Atlanta Braves. They may be good, they may be bad, but you need to be able to connect with them rather quickly. Period. It's in our Southern DNA, like being able to drive a boat and knowing how to spit.
So here we were last night getting introduced to this slick rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who lost out to Tyler Pastornicky in spring training but has since replaced the recently demoted Pastornicky. Simmons had three hits Tuesday and is 4-for-12 in three MLB starts. If he continues at this pace for the next 15 years, he'll be a Hall of Famer (kidding, Choptalker, kidding).
Simmons, though does have the look of a potential star. He's known for his glove and any offense is a bonus, and everyone loves a bonus.
So here's the 4-1-1 on Mr. Simmons, no relation to Ted or Richard:
— He's 22 years old, born on Sept. 4 in 1989;
— He's from the Mundo-Novo in the Netherlands Antilles;
— A second-round pick in 2010 (we love the draft — you know this), Simmons was a coveted pitcher who hit 98 on the gun coming out of the bullpen at Western Oklahoma State;
— He's not going to hit .333 but he'll make a slew of defensive plays that will make SportsCenter.
Well come abroad Andrelton. Now we need to get you a nickname. How does Andy grab you? Or maybe Slick? Think on it.
Headed for home
Provided there is not a work stoppage by the track workers, the run for the Belmont will be this weekend. (Yes, Stuck, we double-checked it.)
Here are the top 10 in the Trifecta contest and some primo tickets (McPell, did we get your replacement for Bodemeister correct?):
Jefe — 6 (Franchetti/Brad Keselowski/I'll Have Another)
Deboman — 12 (Castroneves/Hamlin/Union Rags)
McPell — 13 (Tony Kanaan/Matt Kenseth/Dullahan)
OTWatcher — 14 (Kanaan/Johnson/Painter)
Weena — 14 (Castroneves/Biffle/Dullahan)
33wannabe — 17 (Rahal/Biffle/I'll Have Another)
Dawg747 — 18 (Castroneves/Harvick/I'll Have Another)
Fred — 19 (Castroneves/Edwards/Dullahan)
StuckinKent —21 (Helio Castroneves/Jimmie Johnson/I'll Have Another)
Todd962 — 27 (Scott Dixon/Tony Stewart/I'll Have Another)
This and that
— Phil Mickelson used a little (9-)irony before withdrawing from the Memorial last weekend. Upset about the gallery using cell phones to snap photos of him, Mickelson used his cell from the fairway and texted the PGA commissioner about his displeasure with the new rule that allows cell phones in the gallery. Hey, we get that those guys like to play golf in the tranquil settings of silence and stillness, and playing partners Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson noticed the distractions of the cell phones last week. But take a deep breath and a step back here and realize how this sounds. You're flummoxed by paying fans who want your picture? That's not going to play well on Main Street gang.
— Hard not to notice what Bryce Harper and the Nationals have going on right now. The teenager delivered a walk-off hit in the 12th inning Tuesday to lift Washington into sole possession of first.
— Taco Bell is introducing more upscale menu items. Isn't that like the Pittsburgh Pirates signing one big-dollar free agent?
We spent some time discussing directions. Well, thanks to an insightful question Tuesday from BlueOval, let's transfer from directions to dimensions.
BlueOval asked how cool would it be to see Bobby Jones go against Tiger Woods with the same equipment in their prime. It would be super cool. It would be so cool that it would be the exact opposite of what the Heatles are feeling this morning.
In fact, what's your Mount Rushmore of cross-generation match-ups?
We'll start with Bobby Jones-Tiger Woods (edge Woods), Tyson-Ali (edge Tyson because we all know everyone has a plan until Mike punches them in the face), Ruth-Randy Johnson (edge Ruth), Jim Brown-Ray Lewis meeting in the hole at the 1-yard line (edge Brown). And Gretzky-Orr was our first alternate.
Discuss, and remember the mailbag.
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 ...