Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) shoots over Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce (34) during the first half of Game 1 in their NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals playoffs series, Monday, May, 28, 2012, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Hey gang remember about Friday's mailbag — still got a couple of spots open.
From the "Talks too much" studios, here we go...
LeBron James and the Heatles took everything Rajon Rondo could throw at them and still prevailed. James had 34 points and 10 rebounds as the Heat rallied to force overtime and beat Boston 115-110 despite 44 points and 10 assists from Rondo, who played all 53 minutes Wednesday night and scored all of his team's points in the overtime.
Boston appears baked, the age of its warriors and the wear and tear of this shortened season appear magnified against James, Dwyane Wade and the motivated Miami mob. Rondo is the exception, and his youthfulness and energy had Boston on the brink of stealing Game 2 — the Celtics were up 15 in the first half and 11 in the third quarter.
And you would be accurate if you just thought," Hey 5-at-10, the Thunder are the younger team in the West, and they have been pushed around by the aged and experienced Spurs." This is true, but the monster difference is the Spurts have more options. They are a team built like a Swiss Army — Tony Parker may be the main blade, but there are a slew of other options that are effective. The Celtics are a sturdy buck knife with a good-sized blade that is starting to dull.
While the 5-at-10 may be the only family-oriented, interweb-based sports column to compared the NBA's final four to cutlery, well that's where we are. And the favored Spurs and Heat each held serve and take a 2-0 lead on the road for a Game 3 that the Thunder and the Celtics have to have. Period.
The NBA product on the floor has not been this compelling since the days when Michael Jordan had not professed his love for minor league baseball and shown his inability to put a bat on a breaking ball.
The off the court stuff, though, appears to be in shambles.
The league just survived year of complete discontent. There was a labor dispute that cut into the regular season and was solved with a stop-gap solution that assuredly will lead to more labor unrest in the future. There was the vetoed trade of Chris Paul to the Lakers and the allowed trade of Paul to the Clippers from the NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets. There is the accusation of malfeasance of the leadership of the players' union.
Now, there are NBA executives telling YahooSports! NBA ace Adrian Wojnarowski hinting that Wednesday night's draft lottery was rigged. Hey, the 5-at-10 loves the draft — you know this — and who does not love a good conspiracy theory? But if the executives around the league believe the fix is in, well, not good at all.
Let's review: The NBA sold the Hornets to Saints owner Tom Benson, and Benson and the Hornets, who won 21 games last season with a wretched roster and a good young coach, needed a star to rebuild around. Hello draft lottery and the right to select Anthony Davis, a game-changing-type prospect that could be a cornerstone for a title-contending team, as our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer noted http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/may/31/hornets-draft-gain-is-another-blow-for-michael/. The Hornets had only a 13.7 chance of getting the top pick, but still had their card pulled Wednesday.
Who knows if the fix was in, but it sure seems fishy. (Side note: The best conspiracy theory about the NBA draft was the reports and rumors that in the 1985 lottery, the Knicks' card had been frozen the night before. So when David Stern was pulling out cards, he knew which one was the Knicks' card and would not pull it out until the end. Well, the Knicks did win that draft lottery and took Patrick Ewing with the first pick in the 1985 draft.)
College conferences are convening around the country. We'll take "Alliteration" for $200, Alex.
There are a myriad of issues at hand, but none is getting the uniform attention from the big-boy leagues like the new football playoff system. In fact, there even appears to be some form of compromise coming that seems to fit the wants and needs of the leagues.
The Pac-12 and the Big 10 want only conference champions in the four-team playoff. The SEC says poppycock because there are routinely two or three teams in the SEC as good as anyone in the country.
An idea from the Pac-12 meetings relayed by Dennis Dodd of CBSsports looks to fit the needs of everyone: a 3-and-1 field of three highest-ranked conference champions and the highest-ranked at-large team. This would leave a spot for Notre Dame, one of the upstarts from a non-BCS league or even a team such as Alabama last year that may be the best in America even though it failed to win its conference.
That said, if there are three champions and an at-large team, are we not going back to the polling/BCS system to determine which teams are in the semifinal games? And if that's where we're headed, isn't that just where we are with just two extra teams added? OK. What happens when the SEC champ is a four-loss team that pulls an upset in the Georgia Dome and is not ranked among the top conference champs? What happens when the first or second year of the new set-up and the No. 5-ranked team is either unbeaten or a one-loss power program that is excluded from the playoff and starts belly-aching like the No. 3-ranked team used to?
Yep, this thing looks absolutely picture perfect. (Side question: How long before we go to an eight-team field? We'll set the over/under at three years and we stand by our eight-team format we pitched last year with the four conference champs of the four highest ranked conferences — that's conferences rankings not the ranking of the conference champs — and four wild-card teams, with the first-round games on campus of the four conference champions with the semifinals and the finals being at current power bowl sites. And in truth, we'd have zero problem playing the title game every other year in the Rose Bowl.)
This and that
— The Kings eased to a 1-0 Stanley Cup lead with a 2-1 overtime win over New Jersey on Wednesday. We're certainly not Siskel or Ebert when it comes to hockey, but the times we checked in on Game 1, the action seemed sluggish. Could be jitters, could be tight defense, could be hockey beauty is in the eye of the beholder — and this beholder may not be the best gauge — but we had a hard time staying with the Kings' win.
— Wow, L.A. slugger Matt Kemp is heading back to the DL with another hamstring injury. Not good Johnny Dodgers Fan. Not good at all. And looking at the three of the top storylines on ESPN's baseball page — Kemp's hamstring, Halladay's shoulder and Pedroia's thumb — and you're looking at teams replacing some serious stud ducks.
— Hey welcome back Braves' bats, we've missed you. Every Braves regular had at least one hit except Jason Heyward, and Freddie Freeman put his new sports goggles to good use. Freeman, who had mired in a 2-for-25 slump while battling vision problems and dry eyes, donned the goggles and went 3-for-5 with a homer. Maybe Heyward needs to borrow those goggles, too. The Braves outfielder surged out of the gate this year, but he's hitting .200 in May (19-for-95) and his average has dropped almost 50 points this month. After 20 consecutive days with baseball, enjoy the off day Braves, who were 9-11 in that stretch.
— Are we in Spin City? Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday that Alex Smith was always the plan at quarterback for the 49ers and that there was an "erroneous perception that we were flirting with Peyton Manning." Well, Jim, if that's the truth then please explain why you weren't flirting with the single biggest free agent in the history of team sports? It was because you had the utmost confidence in Alex Smith, who until recently was not a much better quarterback than Alex Tribek, Alex P. Keaton or Alexander Graham Bell? OK, coach, if you say so.
— We are scheduled to be on The Show with Chris Goforth on 1370 AM today around 2 p.m. Swing by, as Bluto says, "It don't cost nothing."
While the SEC deals with schedule issues — as our SEC ace David Paschall covers here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/may/31/scheduling-is-hot-topic-at-sec-meet/ — verbal lightning bolt Steve Spurrier tossed out the idea to pay players $3,500 to $4,000. Again.
Spurrier has been beating this ATM for more than a year, and he has the backing of the rest of the leagues football coaches.
"We recognize that the income producers are both the football and basketball programs, period," LSU coach Les Miles told Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com. "So there's a want to say with this extra income we would like to provide cost of education and cost of expense stipends to those players. We recognize that it's going to be difficult for every team on every campus -- volleyball, gymnastics, baseball, etc. -- to come up with the same number."
OK a few things: 1) Of all the things that we miss about college football season, Les Miles being involved in the 5-at-10 on a regular basis is high on that list. You have to love when Miles talks about "a want to," be it a player's want to be good, a team's want win a championship or a want to say something. More Les please. 2) Of course all the coaches agree with this sentiment — in the cut-throat recruiting world that is the SEC you can't be the guy that is viewed as being against rewarding his players. Does it matter that it is almost an impossible situation? Of course not, but perception is more important than reality in this case.
As for the question, should college football players be paid a stipend? Should all the athletes get something extra or just the revenue-generating sports? (Pretending that Title IX was not an issue and only the revenue-generating sports could pay their players, of course).
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 ...