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

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

May 22nd, 2012 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

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...

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/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?)

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Oklahoma City Thunder

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.)