We're still looking for mailbag questions. Let's get to it. From the "7-Up Stinks Studios," here we go...
Turning up the Heat
LeBron James scored 33 points - including the last 10 of the Miami Heat's 16-0 run to close Wednesday's 97-87 series-clinching win over the Boston Celtics.
The storylines are everywhere.
Was this the definining moment for the Heat? Did the season-long heat on the Heat help get them ready for the playoffs? Are the Celtics cooked? Can anybody stop this Miami team?
Is this the first step for the Heat's first title of what could be a five-peat? If a train leaves Wichita at 6 p.m. going 100 mph... (Sorry, went into question overload.)
Back to the Heat, we'll cover the Celtics in Friday's mailbag, and today is about James and the Heat, anyway. James was simply unstoppable late Wednesday, and the aftermath of the emotional win has been instantly analyzed across the country. From James' tears on the court to his hugs and handshakes with teammates and foes to his postgame apology to Cleveland for how his departure played out last summer.
Think about the last 10 months for James. There was the ill-fated "Decision" that went over about as well as a toot in church. There was the national backlash and the public fued and the concerns about his safety after his break-up with the Cavs. There was the daily intensity about the "Big 3" in Miami. There were the stunning losses and even the tears in the locker room.
And there he was Wednesday - almost a year to the day from James' Game 5 meltdown with the Cavs against these Celtics a season ago - embracing the moment as a player and as a person.
Maybe it was too much, maybe it was over the top. Maybe it means James will never be elected to office in Ohio or never return to his status as the game's most embraceable player like he was 15 months ago. And, if they want, Johnny Cavs Fans have every right to continue their anti-LeBron commitment - and the twist of James' marketing phrase from "Witness" to "Quitness" was super clever.
But LeBron's emotion Wednesday was real and his performance was overwhelming, and that's enough. It's more than enough, in fact.
Elsewhere in the NBA
Holy Postseason Power Players, these playoffs continue to impress. There's so much to cover. You know what we need, a 5-in-10 by the 5-at-10 (the soon-to-be-copyrighted top five list in 10 words or less):
- Is there a Thunder storm coming: Wow, Durant and Westbrook may be arriving sooner than expected.
- Will there be a Game 7: The Chicago Derrick Roses can advance in tonight's Game 6.
- Prediction: Joe Johnson's Hawks take the Derrick Roses back to Chicago
- Hard to believe: "Tractor" Traylor, who was traded for Dirk, found dead
- Changing of the guard in the NBA: New faces will be in the finals.
Let's expound on that final entry. How about this stat: At least one of the following five all-timers of Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwan, Shaq O'Neal, Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan was involved in every NBA finals since 1991. That will change this year.
Braves vs. Nationals = trouble; Braves vs. everyone else = OK
Since 1991, the Atlanta Braves have been one of baseball's most impressive and successful franchises.
Since moving from Montreal in 2005, the Washington Nationals have had only one non-losing season. In fact, since 2005, the Braves are 35 games over .500 as of this morning and the Nationals are 147 games under .500.
That said, since the start of the 2008 season, the Nationals are now 33-26 against Atlanta and 172-289 against every other team that puts nine guys on the field. That's right, the Braves have assembled a solid lineup, a strong rotation and a potentially tough bullpen, but when the Nationals come to town they look like a pre-Kelly Leak Chico's Bail Bonds Bad News Bears.
Side note: The bullpen meltdown in Wednesday night's 7-3 loss to Washington was made more painful with the news that Peter Moylan will have back surgery next week. He'll be on the shelf for three months. Ouch.
Side note 2: Liked how the team, especially Eric Hinske, rallied around closer Craig Kimbrel, who allowed two runs in the ninth - his third blown save in his last 10 appearances. Kimbrel throws hard and has Big Boy stuff, and he's going through some growing pains. It happens.
Side note 3: Wonder what Braves reliever Scott Linebrink is going to do after his baseball career? It's about time to find out.
BCS embraces tradition/turns a blind eye
Consider the 5-at-10 somewhat stunned that the BCS kept the Fiesta Bowl in its rotation.
With the increasingly bright spotlight on college football's current system to decide a champion, the BCS shrugged its shoulders at the series of misgivings and mistakes by the Fiesta Bowl organizers. Sure the Fiesta Bowl was fined $1 million, but it was allowed to keep its seat at the table.
The Fiesta Bowl is under investigation for apparently illegal campaign contributions and a bevy of lavish expenses, including parties, golf junkets and trips to adult entertainment clubs by the former Fiesta Bowl CEO that approached six figures. Amid those distractions and the allegations and the calls for a playoff from every corner of the nation, including Washington,
D.C., the BCS decided to keep its prodigal bowl in the fold.
"The message is they had cleaned house and addressed their problems, but our group doesn't believe they went far enough," Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, told the AP.
He also said the $1 million fine was intended to reflect the "serious nature of the matter."
Just stop Bill. The AP reported that the Fiesta Bowl listed more than $15 million in assets in its most recent IRS filing.
Say what you will about the BCS - and most of it can't be reprinted here on the family-oriented-Intertube-based-web sports column - you can't say they're not loyal.
This and that
- There are reports that former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins is going to transfer to Division II North Alabama. Jenkins, who was an All-SEC player with the Gators, was dismissed by new coach Will Muschamp after his second violation of team rules (i.e. marijuana). Since arriving in 2009, North Alabama coach Terry Bowden (yes, that Terry Bowden who used to coach Auburn) has welcomed in at least 35 Division I transfers.
- Holy Bromance, how much have they discussed the hug between Cubs GM Jim Hendry and Cards slugger Albert Pujols? Let it go gang - not that there's anything wrong with that.
- The Ringgold Tigers baseball team split with defending state champion Columbus on Wednesday. Read about it here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/may/12/tigers-split-columbus/. The teams will play a decisive Game 3 today.
Kudos to the UT folks who brought more than they advertised; and kudos to the UT fan base here in town that sold out the event. And that's a sell-out crowd coming on the heels of a 6-7 football season, the firing of the most popular men's basketball coach in history and an all-too-quick end to the Lady Vols season. Chaney called it "Loyalty" and that's well-put.
- Tip of the cap to David Dinger, the longtime Lookout Valley baseball coach who announced he is stepping down. Dinger has always been good to the TFP and by all accounts is a true class guy.
- Last chance to offer up any betting tips/ideas before the 5-at-10 heads to Vegas.