5-at-10: The King's speech, Hoops dreams, NFL Moneyball and worst costumes

5-at-10: The King's speech, Hoops dreams, NFL Moneyball and worst costumes

March 4th, 2014 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Who knew we'd have a movie-related possible theme show on the day after the day after the Oscars? So it goes.

From the "Talks too much" studios, you are the wind beneath our wings.

LeBron goes for 61

Your move Mr. Durant.

Kevin Durant, the NBA's leading scorer and MVP contender, won January. He scored 30 or more points in 14 consecutive games. He was a wrecking crew as his running mate Russell Westbrook mended an injured knee. He went from Durantula to Slim Reaper to Servant. He was the talk of the league and some even wondered if the 6-foot-9 sharpshooter had become the best player in the league.

LeBron James

LeBron James

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

That was likely the point that lit the fire under LeBron James, who has gone from The King to King Kong. James dropped 61 on Charlotte on Monday, needing only 33 shots to set a career high in points. James was so good - he made his first eight 3s and none of them hit the rim - that you felt 70 was possible. In fact, he added five assists in the mix, so it was a comfortable, under-control 60-point game.

And it was almost historically efficient, finishing fourth in shooting percentage (66-percent) among players to score 60-or-more-points in a game.

This is only the latest salvo in the last two-plus weeks, joining the list of his dunk tape, his game-winning 3 against Golden State, and his post-All-Star Game torch job on Durant and the Thunder. It's a clear and impossiblr-to-ignore message: LeBron is not going to give his MVP up without a scrap.

Good times. Strike that - great times.

Here are James' numbers in his five games since the All-Star break, when the chatter reached a fevered pitch about Durant: 74-of-109 from the floor, 14-of-27 from 3, 36 rebounds, 25 assists, 37.4 points per game.

Game on. Winter is coming.


College hoops

We have Joe Lunardi on Press Row today, and we feel certain the Vols bubble hoops will come up. What else would you like to know from one of the most well-known bracketologists?

Basketball tile

Basketball tile

Here are a few questions we're hoping to explore:

Is Syracuse still a one seed? We believed a month ago the Orange were far and away the best team in the country. Now, they look like the fourth best team in the ACC. Puzzling indeed.

Which teams should Tennessee fans be rooting against? One of the most underrated parts of the bubble craze is looking around and rooting against Arkansas or Richmond or whomever because those teams are occupying the same bubble territory as your team. It gives us a rooting interest in meaningless games, and all we can hope for in sports is to be vested, either in the moment or the outcome. That's a pretty sentence right there.

How does he think the committee will view the dumpster fire that has become the Kentucky Wildcats? (Side note: If you have not seen it, TFP college sports ace David Paschall has a nice story on the confounding Coach Calipari here.)

What else?


NFL money

The NFL salary cap has been set at a record $133 million, which is even more than expected. That's good news for several salary cap-strapped teams. Of the 32 NFL teams, only the Pittsburgh Steelers are currently over the cap according the the NFLPA, and the Steelers have several quick fixes, including cutting tackle Levi Brown and corner Ike Taylor, two moves that will right the salary ship quickly.

Some of the top free agents are flying off boards, guys like Jimmy Graham (franchised tagged by the Saints), Riley Cooper and Brian Orakpo have already been accounted for.

So the posturing during this free agency period will be interesting. It will also be interesting to see how a couple of re-negotiating quarterbacks will play it.

Let's look at Cam Newton and Colin Kaeprernick.

Each will be looking for a big-money extension, either in coming days or certainly after the 2014 season, which is the final one on their original four-year deals.

Newton has said multiple times he has no plans to hold out. Kaepernick has avoided the topic but did say Monday he expects Cutler-Romo-type money, which would be in the $18 million a year range. Which is a very nice range.

Let's look at the stats:

Newton in 2013 - 61.7 completion percentage; 3,379 yards, 24 TDs, 13 Ints, 88.8 rating, 585 rushing yards

Kaepernick in 2013 - 58.4 completion percentage, 3,197 yards, 21 TDs, 8 Ints, 91.6 rating, 524 rushing yards

Wow, $18 million. And yes someone will give it to each of them, but it also means those teams will have to say good-bye to several other starters to go from making $5 million for Cam and around $1 million for Kaepernick to making elite QB money.


This and that

Boyd-Buchanan's Austin Walker goes up for a shot during his team's 51-47 Class A sectional win over Clarkrange on Monday at Boyd-Buchanan.

Boyd-Buchanan's Austin Walker goes up for a shot...

Photo by Erin O. Smith /Times Free Press.

- Congrats to the Boyd-Buchanan hoopsters, who advanced to the state tournament. That's something they can't take away from you. Good stuff.

- Congrats to all the area folks who were inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame last night. We were fortunate to be there - hi Billy in Brainerd - and enjoyed the festivities, and a special shout-out to our TFP ace columinst Mark Wiedmer for being inducted. He was in the class with Coach Mack and Ralph and Karen Weekly and a slew of other deserving folks. Well-played indeed gang.

- We have popped the cork on MLB replay, as the new system was used in the Blue Jays- Twins game. The delay was 2 minutes, 34 seconds. The call was correct on the field. Not sure if this a "Be careful what you wish for..." moment or the first step into a technological and better baseball. We'll see. And, hey, any reason to drink more Co-Colas at the ball game is good by us.

- Is there a more dominant team anywhere in sports than the UConn Lady Huskies? Wow. After smoking previously unbeaten Louisville, UConn


Today's questions

Don't forget the mailbag. Yeah, you too. And it doesn't have to be all sports, either.

Have you seen the Bucs new uniforms? Awful. Or as Chuck would say, "That's Turrrrrr-bile."

Worst uniforms in sports today? How about all time? Go.