Gang, buckle up and remember Friday's mailbag, and don't forget about Press Row — our sports radio show with Paschall and Wells Guthrie on ESPN 105.1 FM and here on timesfreepress.com from 3-6.
From the "Talks too much" studios, is that a snowball in your pocket or are you just happy to see us?
In one of the more anticipated NBA regular-season games in recent memory, Kevin Durant continued his attack on LeBron James' status as the game's best player.
Durant scored more than 30 points for the 12 consecutive game as his Thunder blitz James' Heat in Miami 112-95 Wednesday night. It was one-sided and complete, especially considering the Thunder actually trailed 22-4 midway through the first period.
And for any and all pro-LeBron folks (and we are front and center in the James Gang), Durant left zero doubt Wednesday and cut into the margin between James and the rest of the world. (Granted, that is now a crowd of two that is James, then Durant, then.............................................................................. the rest of the NBA.) Durant was event the more complete player — scoring a point less than King James but finishing with more assists and more rebounds. The final numbers:
Durant — 40 minutes, 12-of-23 (4-of-9 3s), 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 33 points
James — 42 minutes, 12-of-20 (1-of-5 3s), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 34 points
Does this mean Durant is better? No, but it means he is closer than the 5-at-10 believed and he is playing better than anyone on the planet.
While the Thunder can hardly expect to shoot 58 percent (16-of-27) from 3 on a nightly basis — and no one can expect their bench to go 10-of-12 from 3 like OKC did last night — it's also important to remember that Russell Westbrook is sidelined with a foot injury.
In fact, it's fair to point out that Durant has never been better than right now when, a) more is expected of him, b) he gets to use his most underrated skill — ball-handling — on almost every play, c) there's no debating who is the Alpha Dog, and all of those are directly because Westbrook is injured. Does this continue when Westbrook returns? We'll see.
It's also fair to wish for seven games of Thunder-Heat come June. Good times.
This could be an interesting 30 hours for the majority of college basketball fans in East Tennessee.
First, let's cover what just happened. Jomo's alter ego Marshall Henderson was the only Rebel with a cause last night as the Vols torched Ole Miss 86-70. It was the best UT has looked since thumping LSU in Baton Rouge three weeks ago.
It also was highlighted by a balanced offensive showing that had four starters in double figures and the insertion of Darius Thompson into the starting lineup. Thompson was the only starter in single digits in points but his seven assists were a pleasant surprise and a much-needed respite for a UT offense that has been battling stagnation.
As for the next chapter in the love story between Will Wade and the recharged UTC basketball fan base, well, tonight will be fun to listen to. The Mocs go to the Southern Conference's house of horrors to visit ol' Mr. Chuckles himself, Bobby 'Giggles' McKillop and his Davidson Wildcats.
What does this represent? Is it merely just another mile marker on the path in front of the Wade Wagon?
We think it's more. It's not a season-maker of course, and we believe Wade and Co. will address in accordingly. In fact, it's a lot of fun to expect the best from the Mocs hoops squad on a regular basis again, you know?
We talked with Wade this week on Press Row (Tuesdays around 5:15 is when he stops by) and he said two things that made a lot of sense:
1) He is excited about getting everyone's best shot. This was accurate and energizing. Oh Mocs Fans, how tickled you must be to be getting best shots rather than being after thoughts... all seems right with the world again, huh?
2) He stated the need for a third-scorer tonight, be it Gee McGhee, Casey Jones or whomever. He believes Z Mason and Ronrico White will continue to play well — and that Davidson will try to get the ball out of their hands by any means necessary — but that third option will be large in tight games like tonight.
Good times. Three other matchups we are intrigued by:
• Brooks vs. Mason: It's almost a version of the old Spy vs Spy. These dudes are breadtrucks that make buckets, eat glass and shoot 35 percent from 3. Mason has been far and away the best player on the league's best team, but let's pause a moment for the continued excellence that has been De'Mon Brooks' time in the SoCon — dude is going to finish his career with more than 1,700 points (he's at 1,527 with half his senior season to go), roughly 800 rebounds and shoot better than 50 percent from the field and 70 percent from the line for his career. Good stuff. Wait... that's great stuff. Or as Wade told our UTC hoops ace David Uchiyama here http://timesfreepress.com/news/2014/jan/30/mocs-vs-davidson-rivarlry-coming-to-a-close/ "Z and De'Mon will be a big matchup and a key to the game. They've both had very good seasons. We need Z to impose his will down there."
• Greg Pryor and Ronrico White against the pressure of the moment and the Wildcats. The Mocs have not been great from the field — 44.8 percent is OK but far from great — but the Mocs have found success and flow because they protect the basketball. They average only 13 turnovers a night and staying under that number could be crucial on the road against the Wildcats.
• Wade vs. McKillop. New school vs. Old guard. Luke vs. Vader. Chaos vs. control.
We are inching closer to the Super Bowl — and speeding toward the offseason, which means six-plus months without football games... sigh — and our man Richard Sherman continues to the be Quote Man Cometh.
After his postgame eruption in the NFC title game, Sherman was asked Wednesday about something he wrote a month ago. While praising Super Bowl counterpart Peyton Manning for being the smartest QB in the NFL, Sherman penned "His arm, however, is another story. His passes will be accurate and on time, but he throws ducks."
And he did not back down Wednesday from that statement, although he clarified/softened it by saying Manning's occasional quackers were about whether he catches the snap and grips the laces.
You know what? Sherman continues to speak the truth. Manning's passes are often less than picturesque in the air, but we all can agree that they do not draw pictures in the scorebook. Or the record book.
And while we can debate Sherman's postgame reaction two weeks ago, we can summarily say his view on Manning's arm is both astute and dumb, even for a Stanford educated man.
Why you ask? Well, he's astute because he's right — Manning has fashioned more ducks that Willie, Phil or Si. And he's dumb because who really wants to pull on Superman's cape before the big game?
Speaking of dumb, as a reminder, here are the wagers for the unofficial Eugene Robinson Super Bowl Proposition Bets contest (we have roughly 20 entries so far, so there's that):
Guide — If it's an over/under that means you have to pick whether you think the final number will be above or below (over/under) the number Vegas set:
• Peyton Manning over/under passing yards at 289 yards.
• Renee Fleming, the opera lady singing the national anthem, has an over/under of 2 minutes and 25 seconds to sing the pregame song.
• The over/under on the longest touchdown in the game is 44 yards.
• LeBron James' total points (Saturday vs. the Knicks) is minus-5.5 over Seahawks total points
• Will any member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers be shirtless during the performance?
• Player who scores the first touchdown will have a jersey number above or below 79.5?
• Denver minus-3 over Seattle
TIE-BREAKER: Total points scored in the game (with Price is Right rules in effect so do not go over)
This and that
— NASCAR is considering some drastic changes that would alter the structure of how it would crown a season-long champion. The announcement is scheduled for today, and there is talk that the Chase — the 12-man field fighting it out over the final 10 races — could be expanded to 16 and there is a chance that the field will be narrowed through the Chase to the point where there will be four drivers racing for the title in the final race and whomever finishes first, wins. Let's say two things: 1) NASCAR needs to explore every possible avenue to reconnect with a sagging fan base that has been alienated by a slew of things ranging from the Car of Tomorrow to a forgettable cast of drivers that are cliche machines to the front office's wishy-washy attempts to go uptown and expand; 2) That said, this seems desperate and silly... Kind of like Kurt Busch. So there's that. We'll see.
— Recruiting continues to pick up speed. We had 247Sports recruiting ace JC Schurburtt on Press Row on Wednesday and dude praised UT's class, even if he did think there could be at least one defection among the Vols defensive line commitments. It's also fair to note, as our cohost and TFP college football ace David Paschall wrote here, Alabama continues to add shiny, five-star pieces with the latest addition of Marlon Humphrey.
— We threw this out on Twitter (@jgreesontfp) last night, but thought we'd recycle it here. "How soft is our society today? Public enemy No. 1 100 years ago was Al Capone. Today, it's Justin Bieber. Gross."
— More Vols hoops: Excellent column this morning from TFP ace Mark Wiedmer, and, as Steven Pearl told Weeds, "I don't know that it would ever work out for my father to coach here again." Spot on work there.
We've been dealing with Super Bowl Rushmores all week on Press Row so we'll get your help and jump start the show now.
What's your Rushmore of Super Bowl commercials?
Also, we have talked about where Peyton would rank all-time with a win (or without another Super Bowl) and we all pretty much agree that Dan Marino is the best quarterback without a Super Bowl title.
But who is the best QB never to make the Super Bowl? Discuss.
And remember the mailbag gang.
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 ...