5-at-10: UT falls, NBA Rushmore, unions and Dog days

5-at-10: UT falls, NBA Rushmore, unions and Dog days

February 12th, 2014 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Gang, hope this finds you warm and cozy. If you don't have to get out, don't. We have to go to work.

Shani Davis of the U.S. competes in the second heat of the men's 500-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics on Monday in Sochi, Russia.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

And sweet taste of good scotch, when did we move to the weather epicenter of frustration? Do you know it's going to be 56 degrees at the Winter Olympics today? In the South, it's Snowpocalypse 2.0. Hope you got your milk and bread.

From the "Talks too much" studio, don't forget your booties... it's cold out there.

Tick-tock

Tennessee fought. It battled and scrapped.

In the end, though, it was not the Vols' toughness that was in question. It was their talent at point guard and technical execution that befell a group that is looking for a signature moment in the make-or-break third season of coach Cuonzo Martin.

Yes, the December win over Virginia was a highlight moment that has become a sizable win because of Virginia's success since. The win over Virginia is a fine wine that gets better with age while these Vols are 100 percent Spam - the exact same with an uncertain mixture of mystery whenever you open the can.

They fight and rebound and you know Jordan McRae will bring energy and most nights score 20. Jarnell Stokes is delivering on his five-star pedigree - and the extra work in the weight room and the foul line have paid huge dividends - and is double-double machine. Old Man Maymon is tough and plays extremely hard, even if it is below the rim on surgically repaired legs that remind of his grit and limitations on almost every play.

Tennessee guard Jordan McRae, center, reacts to a play in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Florida, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Knoxville. Florida won 67-58.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

That's the good. And at times the Vols' good can be great. Ask Virginia. Or LSU.

But the rest, well, that's a hodgepodge that is as consistent and dependable as local weather forecasts. The prolonged absence of Robert Hubbs to injury and the enigmatic absences of Antonio Barton to streakiness and Darius Thompson to youth have besieged a backcourt that is starved for a point guard. How starved you ask? Well, the Vols Spam table-setting would go from Hardee's to Hennon's with a a steady diet of point guard consistency.

So it goes, and so it went as the Vols battled a Florida team that is experienced and tough and defensively superb. As our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer detailed here Tuesday night was every bit as much about Florida's strengths as UT's shortcomings in the Gators' 67-58 win.

But as we have coined frequently this UT basketball season, these Vols collectively are not as good as they should be considering the skills they have individually. Take the two best SEC teams - Florida and Kentucky - and put them aside, and Tennessee likely has two of the top three players in the league with McRae and Stokes. Heck, those two Vols likely start for any club in the SEC, and how many other players in the conference would crack the rotations in Gainesville or Lexington?

The sums of these Vols is not as good as the parts and that has a lot to do with the deficiencies at point guard. It also has a lot to do with coaching. When was the last time UT got an easy basket because of a called play or an in-bounds set? The margin for these Vols offensively is simultaneously enormous and miniscule. Because they pound the offensive glass, UT gets more looks, which creates a wide margin of opportunity. But because of their stagnation, the Vols have to work harder than most everyone else to get good looks.

It's confounding and potentially hazardous for Martin's job security. Another tournament-less March would be difficult to stomach, especially when these Vols - with seniors McRae and Maymon and potential NBA draft entry Stokes likely moving on - are much better than next season's bunch will be.

So it goes and here we are. UT is talented enough to play in and win during the NCAA tournament. Ask Virginia or Xavier. They have the pieces now, but the question looms if they have the point guard and the coach to get them there.

We'll see.

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Big day in court

As we in the Chattanooga area are following closely the machinations of the VW-union decisions, the future of the college sport realm could change forever starting today as the Northwestern football players go before the National Labor Relations Board this morning for a hearing that will be the first step in a process that will determine whether they are student-athletes or employee-athletes.

Today is mostly a procedural event and will deal mainly with the legal scheduling of the days, weeks, months and possibly years ahead. In fact, according to ESPN legal ace Lester Munson, things really start at the next scheduled hearing which is Feb. 18.

The debate and the discussion of this will be endless, and there are major hurdles - Title IX, insurance, taxes, you name it - but the avenues out there and the exploration that could come of this could be game-changing.

Buckle-up.

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LeBron speaks - then delivers

LeBron James

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

LeBron James says he will be on the Mount Rushmore of the best NBA players of all-time. And yes, considering that we are a big fan of LeBron and a regular constructor of Rushmores, well, giddy-up.

In an interview with NBA TV James said his current all-time NBA Rushmore is Jordan, Magic, Bird and Oscar Robertson. James added that "I'm going to be one of the top four that's ever played this game, for sure. And if they don't want me to have one of those top four spots, they'd better find another spot on that mountain. Somebody's gotta get bumped, but that's not for me to decide. That's for the architects."

So there's that. And we agree with James that he'll eventually be on the Rushmore. We definitely have Jordan on there. And Bird. James will be there sooner rather than later. As for No. 4, well, we'd lean toward Kareem Adbul-Jabbar over Magic.

Thoughts?

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- Michael Sam gave three interviews to discuss his sexual orientation Sunday. He informed his father by text message last week. Yes, text message. Hey, this is a situation of which we have very little familiarity and as we discussed on Press Row, the judgement will be left for the Man upstairs. But a text message? Michael Sam Sr. said he is having a hard time handling the news and left a dinner at Denny's to go to Applebee's for a drink when he got the text. Sam Sr.'s story is in the New York Times and is a raw reminder about the human elements in all of the stories that we discuss.

Michael Jordan

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

- Michael Jordan's wife gave birth to twin baby girls. Jordan will turn 51 on Monday.

- The Yankees introduced their $175 million No. 3 starter to the media on Tuesday. He rented a 200-person private jet for the trip to New York City, There were five people and a poodle on the plane. Good times. And Tanaka, who went 24-0 last year in Japan, said hello to the media and Rodney Dangefield somewhere mumbled, "Hey, it's a parking lot, enough with the pictures."

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Today's question(s)

We got covered up yesterday, and you guys were aces Tuesday.

Riff on any or all of the above and we're curious if you have LeBron on the path to being on the NBA Rushmore.

If you still need another talking point, well, here's one:

The Westminister dog show was yesterday. What's your all-time Rushmore of dogs? Go. (And it's going to be hard to keep Lassie off the list. She's the Jordan of the category in truth.)