Morning. Hope the weekend treated you as well as you deserved.
From the "Talks too much" studios, let's get to it before Roy Hibbert drops an F-bomb.
All the posturing and stares, the praise and the criticism, the cheers and the jeers are background noise now.
The historical debates about who is better are meaningless and the talk of dynasty is lip service.
This is Game 7, and these are the moments that define players who want to be included among the elite.
LeBron James, this is your moment. Good or bad, these are the moments that define great players
Sure, as our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer says here, without James the Heat would have been swept in this series. But how we got here is no longer pertinent. (Side note: And because it has been an interesting discourse through this series and we have enjoyed talking about the perception of officiating, we'll bring this up: We're interested in your views on the critical offensive foul that was whistled on LeBron in Game 6. James attacked the rim where Roy Hibbert, who was inside the offensive foul arc, met him in the air. James went hard at the basket with both hands on the ball; Hibbert tried to defend and brought his arms forward. The calls was a push-off on LeBron, which led to two technicals. And yes, James' reaction was down right 9-year-oldish, so we have no problem with T. The offensive foul, however... Thoughts?)
Either way, we're here and the rest is a footnote. Because LeBron is the best player on the planet, winning is the only answer. In fact, James and the Heat have way more to lose than they have to win in this moment. A win is the expectation, the baseline, and meeting expectations is a good thing but not the measure of history. History is gauged in totals, and if James' title total does not continue to ascend, then it doesn't matter if he walks on water or scores 50 a game, his historical place will be trivial by comparison.
And moments like this shape that historical mosaic. It's Game 7 wins - decisive efforts in decisive moments - that lead to championships and championships provide the framework around the legend.
James is 1-2 in Game 7s - he's 1-0 with the Heat - but this hardly seems like the Heat that was the terror of the NBA for almost all of 2013. In fact, if the Pacers win tonight, it would be the Heat's first back-to-back defeats since Jan. 8 and 10.
But that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh continue to look like they couldn't play dead in a Western. This is on LeBron. Period. If he has to score 45, then so be it. If he has to guard Pacers center Roy Hibbert, then so be it. If he has to crack Bosh's 2-foot neck, then so be it.
Fair or not, that's how it is for superstars, especially in big moments and on the biggest stages. And LeBron is the biggest superstar in basketball and this is the biggest stage.
It's Game 7. Whatcha' got? Who you got?
We've always been a fan of Tony Stewart. Like his passion and his respect his talent. (Side note: Say what you want about his temper or his quick lip, but never say Tony Stewart can't drive. Dude is the living image of one the best and truest definitions of sports excellence: He could take his and beat yours and take yours and beat his.)
It was nice to see Stewart end his 30-race losing skid. The sport is more fun when he is in the mix.
It also was very eye-opening to see NASCAR black-flag Jimmie Johnson for trying to jump the restart late in the race. It likely cost Johnson the win and looked to be the right call.
Still, it was definitely surprising.
Heck, who in a million replay reviews would have guessed LeBron James would have fouled out of a playoff game and Jimmie Johnson would be called to pit row late in a NASCAR race in the same 10-day stretch. Maybe Stewwie's right and the officiating is getting better?
Atlanta took two of three from Washington this weekend to stretch their lead to 6.5 games in the NL East. It is the biggest lead in baseball.
And Atlanta continues to win - they are 12 games over .500 - with its swing and miss and swing, swing again mentality.
Hey, Danny Struggla has struck out at least once in nine consecutive games, and is on pace for 203 Ks. That would be an excellent total for a starting pitcher; for your everyday second baseman who is making more than $13 million per year, not so much.
There is going to come a point that Braves manager Kid Fresh Fredi G has some tough decisions to make.
Those decisions - sitting Struggla for Ramiro Pena, who is hitting .325; sitting Heyward for Schafer; etc. - can wait as long as the Braves are winning.
But when the five-game losing streak comes or when the Braves drop 10 of 12 - and those things likely will happen because baseball is a long season and you have to trust it - then how those questions are answered will likely shape this club's fate.
- Tough news for UTC, with projected starting defensive end Vantrell McMillian having knee surgery, as UTC football ace John Frierson/Ned Ryerson tells us here.
- Matt Kuchar won Jack's tournament on the PGA Tour, edging a couple of young go-getters and clipping Tiger Woods by a mere 20 shots. Good for Kuch, who answered last week's Sunday meltdown in style and really appears to be a favorite going into the U.S. Open at Merion.
- And we've discussed this topic before, but it never gets old. This time the list is from the Writers Guild of America and it's called, "The best written TV shows of all time." Here's their top 10:
- As for that list, well, it's pretty stout. We think 8, 9 and 10 each could be higher - the first few years of West Wing was exceptionally well-written. Also, we think Friday Night Lights should be somewhere in the mix.
Hey, if we were to write a book on international diplomacy, well, it would not be as long as most 5-at-10 entries.
That said, and after Dennis Rodman's stint chatting with North Korea's leaders, we get word that Steven Seagal is serving as a guide for some GOP bigwigs as they tour Russia.
Sweet buckets of pony tails and neck tats, who's next? Are we going to turn on the TV and see Whoopi Goldberg trying to lead peace talks in the Middle East?
OK, who would be the worst American celebrity to hear is playing some role in international relations? We'll start with Lindsay Lohan and could be talked into a little O.J. Simpson.