5-at-10: NBA’s star-studded series, NFL draft big picture thoughts, social media dust-up

Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) shoots while defended by Golden State Warriors forward Kevon Looney (5) during the first half of an NBA basketball Western Conference semifinal game, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

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NBA magic

Lakers-Warriors was a lot of fun.

It also lasted until way past midnight.

OK, let's contemplate this:

Lakers-Warriors (in round 2 sadly) feature:

— A GOAT candidate in LeBron James.

— A GOAT shooter candidate in Steph Curry.

— A multiple NBA 3-point record-holder in Klay Thompson.

— A GOAT heel candidate in Draymond Green.

— And, oh yeah, the best player in the series is Anthony Davis.

So there's a little star power. And after the Lakers, who like the Heat survived the play-in game tournament, have seized home-court advantage from a higher-seeded foe with a Game 1 road win.

Los Angeles went to Golden State and won 117-112 last night in a game in which AD went 30-20.

In fact, these NBA playoffs have been simply crazy. And, for the most part, been well received.

In the East, lower seeded Philly leads Boston 1-0 headed into a must-win Game 2 for the Celtics tonight. The Heat and Knicks are tied 1-1 with that series headed back to Miami this weekend.

In the West, the Lakers lead 1-0 and Denver held serve at home and has a 2-0 lead over a Phoenix team that added Kevin Durant but gutted its bench, which will be even more noticeable the longer Chris Paul is sidelined with a tender groin. (Side question: Is the groin almost always tender?)

As for the well-received, the TV numbers are up.

The Warriors-Kings Game 7 on Sunday drew close to 10 million viewers, the most for a first-round playoff game since 1999.

Two of the weekend games — going against the mighty NFL draft mind you — were two of ESPN's top first-round audiences ever with close to 5 million viewers last Friday for Lakers-Grizz and Warriors-Kings.

Who knew?

Real draft talk

We talked a smidgen earlier this week about the perception of the media in the eyes of the masses, considering recent polls have media approval ratings somewhere between Biden and a trip to the dentist.

No bueno.

There are a lot of chowder heads in this industry for sure. And since I share my hate mail on regular basis with you folks, you know there are plenty of folks who think I am a chowder head too.

That said, the hate mail has taken a noticeable downturn since we have made a concerted effort to avoid politics around these parts. That's not a coincidence.

But so have the comments. And that's not a coincidence either, if I had to guess.

That's a discussion for another time, though. This is a way into another draft discourse. I love the draft. You know this.

But after the analysis and the impossible-to-grade post-draft grades, the distrust in the media came to mind thinking about the main takeaways from the 2023 draft. Here are five big picture, Deep Thoughts (copyright to Jack Handy and SNL of course) about this year's event and process in general.

— Lies, dang lies and projections. This side of cable news campaign debate shows, there may not be a scenario that has more policy-driven details being floated and shared and leaked than the NFL draft. This year that was magnified when leaks surfaced that Will Levis was shooting up draft boards to the point that he became the betting favorite to be the No. 2 overall pick. In year's past, the days leading up to the draft commonly was referred as a smokescreen. Moving forward, I am calling it a BS blur.

— ESPN gets a lot of crud from a lot of directions, and more times than not they have completely earned it. But they have been a driving force on what has become a true TV event. This year's production was almost universally great, and the TV numbers were up double digits according to SportsMediaWatch.com. A big part of the evolution of this event has been draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. He's an institution. Want to know what else was an institution? The Pony Express. Less Mel, more Todd and way, way, WAY more Louis Riddick will be the next step moving forward for ESPN's coverage of the draft, in my opinion.

— Drafting familiar names (i.e. big-time prep recruits who were coveted by most of the power five powers) is a recipe for success. Couple of caveats: First, the numbers showing all "five-stars are 80% more likely to get drafted" need some perceptive attached. Those numbers are tabulated normally by recruiting sites, which do the star-rankings, and in turn benefit from statements like, "five-stars are 80% more likely to get drafted." Second, there will always be great stories like UTC's Cole Strange jumping into round 1, and those narratives are part of the rich fabric of this event, which is centered more than anything on hope. Think about the draft. There are no real winners or losers. You can talk yourself into anything, like the folks who want to believe that Bijan Robinson was good value at 8 when history time and again screams otherwise. Is Bijan a good player? Of course. Is Bijan an upgrade over Tyler Allgiers or an aging Cordarrelle Patterson? Again, of course. But that's not the question, because at 8 the Falcons could have gotten an upgrade at almost every position on their roster other than TE and maybe CB1. The debate is value and position right now. But the Robinson pick generates hope. Heck, that's what the draft packages for all 32 teams, be it a year when the lowly Jets redirect a franchise with three of the best 10 rookies in the 2022 class or two-plus-decades ago when some skinny, slow white dude from Michigan was a late-round Hail Mary by the new staff in New England.The draft offers new days, new names and new possibilities. The draft's essence is hope, and like Andy wrote to his best friend, "Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

— Don't let the hate infiltrate. I root for the Falcons. So now I want Bijan Robinson to be the best RB1 in the league. Heck, I want him to be rookie of the year, offensive player of the year, and Swiss Family Robinson top sibling of the year. (Wait. Hold on. Being told he is of no relation.) If you are a Titans fan, it's OK to question "Levis over Hooker?" and bemoan the decision, but that's now hay in the barn. Vols fans and Bulldogs backers can understandably look to Hooker in Detroit and all those Dawg defenders in Philly and watch and cheer for the guys who were huge parts of the fall successes in 2022. But Levis is your guy now, Titans fans. Like Coach Dale told the Huskers faithful at the pep rally, "I would hope you support who we are, not who we are not." Heck, Doug is about another three days away from talking himself into believing that Anthony Richardson is an-all-good-mix of Josh Allen and Cam Newton.

— I love the draft. You know this.

Stupidity and social media

Man, I hate it when teenage boys say stupid stuff on social media and it becomes a deal.

I hate it when folks comb through years and decade-old Tweets to play "gotcha" on fast-rising or flash-in-the-pan names in the news.

I hate the story about the QB recruit who had his scholarship from Florida pulled because he sang the N-word as he was singing the lyrics to a rap song and it went viral.

And I hate the latest dust-up of this ilk.

First, the caveat. Yes, it's stupid and callous and insensitive to use slurs and embrace stereotypes. But wow, the folks waiting in the wings to pounce and wring hands about these incidents never ceases to surprise me.

Here's a 17-year-old named Jamaal Jarrett, who said an ethnic slur about Asians as he was live-streaming the NFL draft. Jarrett is a big-time football recruit who is headed to Georgia in the fall.

Yes, he said something stupid, but please for the love of everything holy, let the first person who did not say something stupid during their teenage years cast the first stone. I'll wait.

And yes, now feels like the time to thank the Lord for not having social media when I was at Campbell High School and Auburn University.

This and that

— Kind of like the rules, because there's football mixed in there, but here's Paschall on a UT football celebration/baseball victory.

— Braves played. Braves won. Man, that team owns the Marlins.The Braves are 4-1 against the Fish this year and 21-8 against them since the start of 2022. Side note: And why exactly was Bryce Elder not on the Opening Day roster? Elder was by far the better pitcher last night against reigning NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara and is 3-0 with a sub-2.00 ERA this season.

— Tiger Woods and caddie Joe LaCava have divorced. No reasons were given, but I hope Joe gets visitation with Tiger's wedges and stays involved, you know. Seriously, though, LaCava will be on the bag for Patrick Cantlay this weekend at Quail Hollow.

— So the final picks have been made in the sweeping deal that sent Matthew Stafford from Detroit to the L.A. Rams. Yes, the Rams won a Super Bowl with Stafford behind center, which is certainly viewed as a successful return. But Lord, look what the Lions have added and — speaking of the draft, if some of these picks hit, Detroit is locked and loaded for a postseason push — with the selections they got in return: QB Jared Goff, CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, WR Jameson Williams, DL Josh Paschal, RB Jahmyr Gibbs, TE Sam LaPorta, and DT Brodric Martin.

— Speaking of the draft, saw this on the "10 best value picks" from last week's NFL draft from USA Today, and I agree with almost all of them. Their top-five is Levis as the best value, followed by Alabama S Brian Branch (pick 45 to Detroit), CB Christian Gonzalez (17 to New England), Edge Nolan Smith (30 to Philly), and G O'Cyrus Torrence (59 to Buffalo). Hooker was seventh on the list (68 to Detroit) and Georgia tight end Darnell Washington (93 to Pittsburgh) was eighth.

— Auburn QB T.J. Finley has entered the portal. Uh, T.J., if you can't grab the QB1 gig at Auburn right now, well, I'm not sure there is a destination out there that has a more open landscape at the position, big guy.

— So Joel Embiid was named NBA MVP over Nikola Jokic. Man, there is nothing that comes with more voter fatigue than MVP awards. Jokic won the last two MVPs and was statistically better this year than the previous years — for a much better version of a Denver team — and was denied. So it goes.

Today's questions

Which way Wednesday stars this way: Which player is truly the most valuable in the NBA, LeBron or anyone else?

Which side got the best end of the Matthew Stafford trade?

Which NFL draft pick was the best value?

Which title run was better, Steph's with four titles in one organization or LeBron's with four titles at three locales?

Answer some which ways, ask some which ways.

As for today, May 3, let's review.

Bing Crosby would have been 120 today. Have we done a Rushmore of "bing" which starts with Crosby, bada and Chandler right?

If we have, let's try a big picture Rushmore of "may" and having fun.