published Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

5-at-10: Peyton, OKC, Last-place eye-poppers

Remember Friday's mailbag and if you have a question shoot it to us at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or leave it in the comments. From the "Talks too much" studios, here we go...

  • photo
    New Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning appears during an NFL football news conference at the team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo., on Tuesday, March 20, 2012. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Manning on a mission

Reports from Denver's team practices have been overwhelmingly positive leading up to Monday's unveiling of the newest Bronco, quarterback Peyton Manning.

His receivers and the on-lookers gushed with praise, but Monday was the first time reporters and those outside the team got a look at Manning, who was the most prized free agent of all-time this offseason before picking Denver.

Manning did not disappoint, delivering a series of strikes and showing good zip on his throws. As all-world Denver cornerback Champ Bailey described it, "If the guys are a little bit open, they are a lot open," with Manning pulling the trigger.

Manning's recovery from the neck injury that forced him to miss last season seems to be almost full circle.

''It felt good to be out there. It's been a while for me,'' Manning said. ''It's been about a year and a-half since I've been in uniform, been in an organized practice. So, it felt good to be out there. And it will be a good film to study.''

Speaking of film study, here's saying that Manning goes all-world movie comeback on the league this year. If dude can handle the hits, and we think he can, Manning is going to be unbelievably motivated this fall.

In fact, what movie character do you Manning's season will most resemble:

a) Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" and Manning just goes nuts on the league;

b) Rocky Balboa in "Rocky III" after the training with Apollo and he whips Clubber Lang;

c) William Money in "Unforgiven" after his fever breaks and he returns to kill Little Bill;

Discuss. (And is there a safer bet in the NFL right now than Peyton Manning as comeback player of the year?)

————

OKC killing it

The Thunder looked like a team beyond its playoff years Monday night, eliminating the Los Angeles Lakers 106-90 in a Game 5 filled with storylines and subplots.

Has this become Kevin Durant's time? Is it time to overhaul the Lakers? Can the Thunder scale the rolling Spurs in the Western Conference finals? Would you ever threaten to kill someone over a T-shirt? How much bull would a bull frog jump if a bull frog could jump bull? OK, the last one is gibberish, but we wanted to make sure you were still with us.

Is this KD's time? It appears so. And he's going to be a handful for the Spurs. But the difference for OKC in topping the Lakers was point guard Russell Westbrook, who played 180 minutes and had a grand total of four turnovers. Read that again. If Westbrook, who is big and athletic with odd postgame fashion tastes — think a young Jason Kidd blended with Urkel... do we need to call him Kirkel? — protects the ball like that against the Spurs and Tony Parker, the Western Conference finals will be awesome in their awesomeness.

As for Kobe, after pushing his team's second-best player into traffic before Game 5, there are huge questions about the Lakers going forward. Bryant was excellent in defeat Monday, scoring 42 points and making more field goals than the rest of the Lakers combined, but there are a lot of miles on Kobe's tires. The Lakers are starving at point guard and if Andrew Bynum is going to take the leap, he has to do it now to be of any service to Bryant, who has to feel the championship window closing a bit. That said, anyone who thinks today's Kobe is better than today's LeBron, check the stat lines in the most recent must-have playoff games: Bryant — 42 points, five rebounds, 0 assists; James —40 points, 18 rebounds, nine assists. Has Bryant had a better career? You bet. Is he better than LeBron now? Puh-lease.

As for the T-shirt, the over-the-top Thunder crowd, which is as good as any in pro sports and even features thousands watching outside the arena, is know for their matching T-shirts. well, an opportunistic company made a T-shirt that had "OKC Thunder" on the front and "Thank you Seattle — OKC" on the back. Well apparently the fans of the Seattle Supersonics, the team the OKC was before moving, did not like the marketing campaign and issued death threats to some of the folks at the company that made the T-shirt, which has since been pulled.

The NBA, where T-shirt terrorism happens.

—————

Athletes do good things, too

Kudos to Matt Stafford. Major-league Kudos. Stafford, the Detriot Lions starting quarterback, attended an auction for a Michigan children's hospital last weekend after becoming friends with patient Faith Falzone and her brother Will, who is a huge Lions fan and told Stafford his family loved visiting Chicago. Well, one of the auction items was a trip to Chicago for a Lions-Bears Monday night football game. Stafford even threw in six tickets to the package, but that was just the beginning of his kindness.

We'll let Will's mother take it from here as she wrote on her blog myfaithsjourney.com:

"Part of the Gala included a live auction where there were big ticket items raffled to the highest bidder. I noticed my son pointing out a package that included a trip to Chicago with tickets to a Monday Night football Game to see the Lions and the Bears a package donated by Mike Tirico. Dhani Jones was the auctioneer and asked Stafford to beef the package up by adding some tickets to the game. He agreed and the bidding began. Will was excited to see who won the package and watched intently to see who was going to see his Lions play in Chicago, suddenly, the Lions own quarterback began bidding on the package, Dhani teased about being able to watch and play at the same time, saying I know you were good last year, but man that is talent. I assumed he was driving the price of the package up, all the money goes to Mott, I thought it was incredibly cool of him. As the bidding continued he wasn’t backing off…he was in it, he wanted to win that package, and had I known why, I’m certain, I would have been in tears. Somewhere in the $15k range Matt Stafford was the owner of the MNF package, the crowd laughed, but moments later, that same crowd would be giving the Mott newcomer a standing ovation. As he won the package he turned to Will and said, there you go buddy, you go to Chicago, and take your family. The look on my sons face, I will never forget. His chin began to quiver, he was about to cry. He quickly jumped up and gave Matt a hug, and thanked him over and over again.

Word traveled quickly to Dhani and the great news was shared with the rest of the crowd. Everyone was pretty taken back, an incredibly generous gesture for a young man who clearly understands giving back to his community. But, what I am certain the rest of the room didn’t understand is this… Matt had asked Will to look at the auction items and tell him what thing he would pick if he could pick one. He set out to make a difference for Will, someone who suffers so much loss from Faith illness. Someone who is so often is overlooked in this mess."

Well-played, Mr. Stafford. Well-played indeed. (And it's OK if it's getting a little dusty at your computer.)

————

This and that

— Jamie Moyer pitched in his 50th major league ballpark Monday night. It's official, if there is a "most" trivia question about pitching that you don't know, Moyer is the only acceptable guess.

— Tiger Woods says he's close to contending regularly. "I think I'm headed in the right direction," Woods told reporters Monday. Somehow the image of Steve Martin and John Candy in the front seat of that rental car in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" comes to mind. The one where they are driving on the wrong side of the interstate, and the folks look over and shoot, "You're going the WRONG way," and Candy replies, "How do they know where we're going... he's drunk." Well, yeah, there's that.

— More golf please. The 5-at-10 was a touch worried about local golfer/PGA rookie phenom Harris English. English, who is on track to be the PGA rookie of the year, was within a shot of the lead at The Players after 36 holes when his opening tee shot of the third round plunked a volunteer on the melon. After shooting 7 under through the first 36 holes, English was 12 over after knocking the volunteer down in a bloody heap. Well, those concerns about English's mental state can be put to rest. English shot a course-record and U.S.-qualifying record 60 Monday morning to make the field of the British Open. He shot 63 in the afternoon round outside Dallas to get one of the eight spots.

— Former Tampa Bay tight end Kellen Winslow was traded to Seattle for a seventh-round pick Monday. Seattle may appear to have won the trade, getting a Pro-Bowl caliber tight end for a late draft pick. But the Bucs, who quickly signed Dallas Clark as Winslow's replacement, and new coach Greg Schiano won with the deal, too. By dealing Winslow and letting everyone in the locker room know this is Schiano's pirate ship now.

— Nice array of stories in your TFP today. UT ace Patrick Brown explores the dynamic between Derek Dooley and Dave Hart http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/may/22/dooley-boosted-by-hart/. UTC ace John Frierson looks at some the strides local guys are making in NFL camps here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/may/22/locals-learning-in-nfl-bids/.

— Spring Fling is off to a flying start with GPS star Tory Kemp claiming the state pentathlon title. Well done.

———

Today's question

The Yankees and Red Sox are tied for last, 5.5 games out of first in the AL East. The Philadelphia Phillies are in last, five games back in the NL East. The L.A. Angels are in last, eight back in the AL West. Each of those teams were listed as the favorites in their division and each has struggled, be it with injuries or issues or both.

Today's question for you is which of these teams has the best chance to make the playoffs?

We're a quarter into the season, and none of those leads are insurmountable, but there is work to be done. Which team has the best chance to complete that work?

Discuss. (And how many of you are now big-time Matt Stafford fans? We love that story.)

about Jay Greeson...

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 ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
BIspy4 said...

To quote Bill Russell, after winning the NBA Championship as a player-coach in LA as a member of the Celtics as the Cs boarded their plane back to Boston:

"'As the sun sets, we say farewell to Los Angeles, basketball capital of the world.' And we all laughed."

Now that none of the Red Sox projected top five outfielders from the preseason are available to play tonight, tomorrow and maybe throughout June, I say the Phillies are the closest to contending. They are only five games back and they stil have Halladay (beast), Lee (beast) and Hamels (mini beast), with Papelbon (psychotic beast) to close games, plus Howard (you guessed it ... beast) coming back and maybe the ghost of Chase Utley.

The Red Sox are 21-21 with an outfield of a guy who couldn't make his Division II team and played in an independent league, a guy the Cubs, who have lost seven straight, didn't want, and a guy whose name looks like a bowl of Alpha Bits. Cue up "Sweet Caroline"!

May 22, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
Stewwie said...

[Nice array of stories in your TFP today. UT ace Patrick Brown explores the dynamic between Derek Dooley and Rick Hart...]

Dave Hart, not Rick Hart.

Strong finish by OKC last night. This is KD's time. Gonna be a good series with the Spurs.

Well played indeed by Stafford.

May 22, 2012 at 10:34 a.m.
Todd962 said...

It's probably best to preface those Stafford stories with some sort of heads up, opposed to pointing out afterwards that you may want to shut the door to your office so people wont think youre a "face leaker." Nice story either way. You hear similar stories every once in a while. Its good to see there is more than a few quality people left in the sports industries.

The UEFA soccer season came to an end Saturday with Chelsea claiming the silverware. The game went through double overtime and into a shootout. Chelsea was all too familiar with the situation having lost the same Championship in 2008 under identical circumstances to Man U. In 2008, Didier Drogba wasnt able to take a PK due to a red card he had received earlier in the game. This year he buried the final PK to put away Bayern Munich and cast the ghosts of '08 away. It was awesome. And with that, your soccer quota has hit 200% for the year.

And is anyone else nervous for the Heatles with whatever comes out of the West? This is assuming they can even make it out of their conference, which hasnt looked like the sure thing that it once was. Spurs and Thunder look scary good.

May 22, 2012 at 11:18 a.m.
John_Proctor said...

"OKC killing it" may be a predictive headline. 8 shot, 1 critically wounded, after last night's win. Way to stay classy OKC.

May 22, 2012 at 11:33 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent —

Great question. I heard this question thrown around on national sport talk shows yesterday, and have really struggled to come up with an answer.

I'll start by eliminating the Phillies from the mix. I don't think they have the hitting. Yes, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley should be back soon, but their offense has been dipping for a while. What really needs to happen is the Braves, Nationals, and Marlins need to bury this time while they are down. Unfortunately, that hasn't really happened yet. The Phillies are good, but I don't think they make the playoffs. The Angels are the most interesting case because I still maintain that they have the best team of this bunch. Sure. there are flaws. But they play in the AL West against the A's and the Mariners. If Pujols ever gets going (and he will), they will make a push. Still, I think they come up short. There are holes on the team that need to be addressed, but they won't be able to address them. That leaves the Yankees and the Red Sox. While the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rays are all good, I don't think anyone outside of the Rays are really a playoff team. With two wildcards this year (and one not coming from the Central for sure, and since I said no to the Angels-barely- then one is not going to come from the West either), three AL East teams are going to the playoffs more than likely. The Rays, and I'll include the Blue Jays, and then either the Yankees or Red Sox. This is like flipping a coin. The Yankees are counting on Andy Pettite to be an ace for them. Huh? They are counting on Jeter to continue his current torrid pace. I just don't see it. I'll take the Red Sox by a nose, despite their massive problems.

This is because you made me pick one. In the AL, I would probably pick the Rays, Tigers, Rangers, Red Sox, and Angels to be in the playoffs, with the Yankees and Blue Jays just missing out, and the Mariners, A's, and Orioles not too far back. In the NL, I would pick the Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Marlins and Nationals to be in the playoffs, with the Phillies, Brewers, Reds, and Giants just missing out, and the Rockies making a strong midseason push that comes up short as well.

May 22, 2012 at 11:39 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

So you're saying the Phillies have a few beasts?

Your boys desperately miss the Traveling Ellsburys.

Stew Little, Stew Late —

Thanks for the catch. That must be reflex to type Rick Hart. At least we didn't type "Dooley and his relationship with Bret "The Hitman" Hart."

We're genuinely excited about the Spurs-Thunder. Great dynamic there.

Mr. 962 —

Fair point. From now on we'll use a disclaimer on the front end.

We've already used our soccer post for the year. We'll keep that in mind for 2013.

As for the Heatles, they have ZERO chance against the the Thunder or Spurs without Bosh. ZERO. In fact, the West duo looks super right now. Plus, the Heatles will be in a physical knock-down-drag-out brawl if they have to go through Boston. Tough road ahead.

JP —

We were using the double (word) play — that's 6-4-3 if you're scoring at home — in regard to the T-shirt mess. Then we saw the story about the gun play. Not good.

Seriously, we're big sports fans, but is there anything that your team could do that makes you want to go shoot someone or something? Or riot? The word fan comes from fanatic, but come on folks.

StuckinKent —

Nice breakdown, and it appears the Yankees have too much to overcome. In fact, A-Rod better be sending thank you notes to Albert Pujols because if Albert wasn't struggling as badly as he is, A-Rod's disaster would be on everyone's mind.

Stinks not to be able to use steroids, huh?

— 5-at-10

May 22, 2012 at 11:53 a.m.
fechancellor said...

Ten Ring, I'll go with what is "Unforgiven" for $500.

Last year, the AFC West was so weak Tebo stole the Division from KC (7-9), SD (8-8) and Oakland (8-8) all with every opportunity to win it in the final two weeks.

Denver with Peyton Manning should be 2 to 3 games better next year. With Norv Turner to stay in San Diego, Reggie McKenzie's rebuild in Oakland KC's lack of a passing game was addressed only with only three offensive linemen taken in the second round or later.

If "Little Bill" is the AFC West, then Manning has little to worry about.

Denver has five Prime Time games this year. Tests away from the AFC West include Steelers, Atlanta, New England, Saints?, and Baltimore.

May 22, 2012 at 2:51 p.m.
Walden said...

Jay- William Munny in Unforgiven, for sure. Your facts are a bit off, but that is OK. He actually heads into town to kill Little Bill after slamming half a bottle of Whisky -- his first drink in years. In fact, the whisky and his killing ways were part and parcel of his former psyche, which his deceased wife cured him of. But the ferocity with which he dispatches that entire saloon of expert shooters is a good allegory for what Peyton will do to the NFL this Fall!

May 22, 2012 at 3:13 p.m.
jgreeson said...

FE to the C —

We concur. And with that division — Raiders rebuilding, Chargers always under-achieving, Chiefs' unknown health — it's open for the taking.

Walden —

Love the saloon scene — "You, fat man, who owns this crud hole?" and "Killed everything that's walked or crawled at one time or another and I'm here to kill you Little Bill," and "Deserve's got nothing to with it."

And yes, the whiskey and the killing was his coming full circle in revenge of Ned. Morgan Freeman is the bee's knees, no?

— 5-at-10

May 22, 2012 at 3:29 p.m.
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