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Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) goes up high to dunk the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

A little NBA

For most of us a little NBA goes a long way, right?

Well, here's a little NBA in digestible bits. And for you Intern Scott, I'll type slooooowwwwllllyyyyyyyy.

First, the TV numbers, and while there is a lot of politicizing about the impact of social justice and political commentary from the league and its players, the numbers are pretty clear to a couple of irrefutable points on each side.

First, the good, and the playoff TV numbers are up big compared to the bubble experiment of last summer. Through eight games, the first eight games of the playoffs are averaging 2.89 million viewers, which is up 49% percent from the first eight games of the bubble travesty on a Monday/Tuesday last August. The numbers are up the tiniest of smidgens from 2019, when the first eight games averaged 2.85 million viewers.

As for the bad, the playoff TV numbers are up ever-so-slightly compared to 2019 and that's starting on a weekend with two prime ABC slots. It also must reflect that the 2019 playoffs were without LeBron and the Lakers in the draw, no Knicks team in the bracket and a 2019 Nets team led by D'Angelo Russell. This year's three highest-rated series-opening games were LeBron-Suns, which averaged 4.43 million on ABC, and the two teams based in the nation's biggest media market as the Nets Big 3-Celtics averaged 3.82 million on ABC and the Knicks-Hawks averaged 3 million on TNT.        

OK, let's keep moving.

NBA gambling note: OK, suppose someone had the under 211 for the Lakers-Suns on Tuesday night. And suppose they went to bed around halftime because a 10 p.m. Eastern start is pretty late, especially when you need to be done with your heavy lifting by 9:30 a.m. And suppose the score was 105-96 with less than 15 seconds left. What would you suppose the odds were that the teams would combine for 10 points in the final 14.3 seconds to push the 211 total? Now calculate those odds with the knowledge that neither team made a shot from the field. That's right, 10 free throws — a perfect 10-for-10 for that matter — in 14.3 seconds, because not all bad beats actually wind up in beats.

(Side note: Speaking of NBA betting, let's have a little fun tonight. After sweeping the over/unders earlier this week, we're back down to minus-1.5 units. Let's go Wizards-76ers over 230, Utah money line and Knicks minus-2 — sorry Mader — in a three-team parlay that pays +336 for a unit.)

As for the action Tuesday night, and I watched a fair amount of it actually, here are three quick thoughts:

> The NBA is not going to let LeBron and the Lakers lose to Phoenix. Period, end of story. In fact, this story is as old as Air Jordans, and the NBA, because it is marketed on the names on the back of the jersey rather than the front, need King James and AD way more than CPIII, Devin Booker (who is excellent by the way) or DeAndre Ayton , who has filled the Greg Oden void as the oldest-looking 22-year-old on the planet. Forget a fake ID, Ayton could get into AARP with a photo ID.

> The Nets are going to be a handful. For everyone. That's just too much firepower, and even when Kyrie goes batty and the Beard gets tangled, the simple truth is Kevin Durant is a 7-foot, 2-guard who can effortlessly score against everyone. Dude popped 26 last night and didn't break a sweat.

> Luka is the truth, and while it will not be this year, Dallas No. 77 will be the best player on an NBA championship team sooner rather than later. Book that.

 

Questionable interview

We had a point and a question about the Eugene Chung coaching interview on Tuesday.

(Side note: You guys and gals have been an engaging bunch. Well done. Side note on the side note: Most of my commenting time as school winds down and summer activities pick up is around meal time. I will certainly check in around the lunchtime whistle and before I get started on dinner. Side note on the side note on the side note: Do I need to bring back some recent recipes I am trying? Yesterday, I made Double-Vanilla French Toast for breakfast and one-pan chicken and cheese quesadillas with a jalapeño ranch drizzle. Interested?)

Where were we? Oh yes, the Chung interview where he told the Boston Globe that a team interviewing the former Philadelphia Eagles O-Line coach said the Korean-American was "not the right minority."

First, I am in no way shape or form surprised by this. We have raced 12 ways from Tuesday to add diversity, and that's a good thing in the arching sense of the pursuit, but far more often — whether we're talking about exposing discriminatory hiring practices or pointing out racially motivated crimes — the focus point has started and too often ended on how it impacts Black Americans.

(Side note: Chas noted the increase in attacks on minorities, and his point is supported by facts. The most recent analysis I saw was from the BBC from last November. The FBI numbers showed that hate motivated murders in 2019 more than doubled to 51, a number that was inflated by the El Paso Walmart shooting in August 2018 that was aimed at Mexican-American. The FBI stats showed there were 7,314 hate crimes in 2019, the most since 2008, with a couple of eye-popping realizations. First, let's offer the ever-needed caveat. All crimes out of hate are terrible. As for the numbers, well, does it surprise you that hate crimes because of religious beliefs rose 7% and crimes against Jews rose 14%? Anti-Latino hate crime went up 8.7% including the murders in El Paso. There were more hate crimes against Blacks than any minority — almost half of all cases — but that number dropped from 2018.) https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54968498

The NFL's outrage, if I am being honest, is that this got out more than this happened. Because, while the noble goals of the Rooney Rule have been undercut by token interviews when Gruden or an Urban Meyer are coveted candidates, it had long been viewed — especially publicly — as an attempt to get more Black candidates interviewed and qualified than an attempt to contact minority candidates.

And in truth, the Chung thing hardly surprises me.

Side note: I've heard a story about a guy who tried to get a sports reporter's job at a major daily newspaper many moons ago. Dude was white, and the interviewer was very complimentary of his presentation and writing samples before ending the interview with this: "If you were an African American, I would hire you right now, and if you were an African American female, I couldn't afford you."

So there's that. It also covers the hidden truth about Chung's scenario too.

When the primary goal of any job search is only for diversity — especially when the goal is to check a very specific box — the hiring process is going to be discriminatory by definition from the start.  

 

Tough job

Can you imagine how difficult being in charge of a school is these days. Yes, we discussed the McCallie debate a bit earlier this week, but here's another one, this one coming from the Sunshine State.

A Florida high school is issuing refunds on yearbooks because the $100 keepsake emitted photos for 'modesty.'

Translation: They saw some photos that showed cleavage or other dress-code violations and edited them, and now folks are in a twist.

I enjoy this back-and-forth, because while I am certainly against censorship or someone in power putting any type of random morality on individuals out of the blue, there are some important line items here.

First, in years past, it's been common practice for the yearbook staff and leaders at that school to omit students who were deemed to be in violation of a clearly stated dress-code.

The yearbook editing idea was an offered compromise to try to include as many students as possible.

Second, there's the following disclaimer on the website to order the high school yearbook: "All images in ads and all individual student pictures must be consistent with the St. Johns County School District Student Code of Conduct or may be digitally adjusted."

But parents are in a huff because they feel this "sends a message that our girls should be ashamed of their growing bodies," according to the story in the local fishwrapper

OK, fair point. But if you know about this on the front end, shouldn't you have checked twice that little Agnes was not dressed like a Kardashian on picture day?

 

This and that

— Been too long since we included a magical photo from our better half. We attached the Mrs. 5-at-10's view of this morning's special moon from somewhere downtown.

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Photo by Kathleen Greeson / Super Blood Moon


— Speaking of TV numbers, as you might have expected, Phil's presence Sunday at Kiawah delivered HOOGE viewership, and an even better showing than most realize. Mickelson's win averaged 6.5 million viewers, which was up big on the pandemic PGA last year and even bigger on the pre-pandemic final round that Brooks Koepka won. It was not as big as 2018 when Tiger was in the mix and finished second (that final round averaged 8.5 million viewers). But it averaged 1.6 million more viewers than Rory's win 10 years ago, and how many sporting events these days can say they are up 25% from a decade ago? The numbers peaked at more than 13 million around 7 as Phil was wrapping up his six major. Plus, CBS added extra time to its coverage — time on the front end that did not include Phil or Koepka in the final group — and still saw a big jump in average viewers. Somewhere over his burnt-toast breakfast Jim Nantz is tickled.

— Speaking of Phil, well, it'll get a little dusty on this one. Dude has an ego the size of the largest par-5 anywhere, but he also has the heart for fans and the charisma for the moment like any golfer since maybe Arnie and maybe any other sports superstar ever. Here's the story about Phil giving his "lucky" ball to a special needs golf fan — who actually is the son of one of Spy's buddies — in the middle of arguably his biggest golf moment since winning his first major at Augusta 17 years ago. This is why we love sports, gang. War Phil.      

— How about some crazy baseball numbers? You interested? Of course you are. Shohei Ohtani's three-run homer against Texas on Tuesday reached 117 mph and reached the right-field seats in less than three seconds. The only man-generated speed close to that is Spy leaving the room between the word "paternity" and "results." Speaking of wily veterans, Rich Hill K-ed 13 last night at the tender age of 41 years and 75 days. According to Jayson Stark, only one lefty at that age-or-older has fanned that many. And yes, Scott, it was Randy Johnson.

— Speaking of diversity and baseball stats, you hear frequently about baseball's need for diversity. OK. But did you know that the four sluggers who have 15 or more homers so far this season all were born outside the U.S.? Vlad Guerrero Jr was born in Canada, Ronald Acuña Jr. was born Venezuela, Adolis Garcia was born in Cuba and Ohtani was born in Japan.

— Speaking of Ohtani, well, after last night's rocket to right, there are three times that a MLB player has pitched in more than five games and hit more than 15 homers in a season. Babe Ruth did it in 1919. Ohtani has done it in 2018 and 2021.

— Jacob deGrom returned from the IL last night and his first pitch was almost 101 mph. He of course got a no-decision but dear Lord of lightning bolts, deGrom has an all-time fastball. Like Gibson, Ryan, Johnson great — and a lot of the metrics suggest the best ever.

— Earlier this week there were changes announced for Stone Mountain, as the park announced the Confederate flags will be removed. Wow, how 1993 of you Stone Mountain. Gang, I grew up in Smyrna, about 30 minutes or so from Stone Mountain, and if I have seen the laser show once, I've, no kidding, seen it 50-plus times. Hard to see a viable future for the very core of the genesis of that place, and that's even beyond the imagery of the Confederacy's three most recognized leaders. Stone Mountain finally got full funding and a renewed purpose as Georgia leaders were resistant to the civil rights movement and efforts to end segregation.

— PSA to get ready for the summer. Paramount is re-airing the first three seasons of Yellowstone. Good times.

— Braves played. Braves won because the bullpen's involvement was limited. That said, Charlie Morton is starting to warm-up with the weather. Let's explore a little bit. Since May 4, the Braves rotation has made 20 starts with 16 of them deemed quality starts (at least six innings, no more than three earned runs, and yes that could be a 4.50 ERA so quality is in the eye of the beholder). But the numbers are legit. In those 20 starts, they have pitched 114.1 innings with a 2.28 ERA and a 1.12 WHiP. Atlanta is 12-8 in those 20 games, and that included a three-game sweep by Toronto in Atlanta when the bullpen crashed in each game.

— Joe West set a MLB record for an umpire last night with 5,376 career games. I'm sure he celebrated with the two or three people who actually think he's good at it.

 

Today's questions

Which way Wednesday starts this way, which team advances Suns-Lakers? (There's no way the NBA lets LeBron fall in round one is there?)

Which current sports superstar is the most likable? (Granted we don't these dudes or gals behind closed doors, but when it comes to public persona and charisma, which is the most likable, because Phil Mickelson has to be on the short list no?)

If I say Yellowstone is the best current made-for-cable drama (not streaming, not pay channels), which show are you putting up against it?

Which foreign-born 5-at-10 favorite will have a better career, Shohei Ohtani or Luka Doni?

Which pitcher has/had the better fastball, Gibson, Ryan or deGrom? (And if you are an old-school baseball lover and wanted to add J.R. Richard before his stroke, I would be OK with that.)

As for today, well, let's review.

Hank Williams Jr. is 72. Yeah my rowdy friends have settled down too. Lenny Kravitz is 57. I think he's gonna go my way.

John Wayne would have been 114 today. On that same day in 107, Big Ed Walsh no-hit the N.Y. Highlanders. Yes, it was way, Way, WAY back when, but Ed Walsh may be the most underrated pitcher in MLB history.

Big Ed finished 195-126 with a 1.82 ERA in 315 starts with 250 complete games. How's this for a season? In 1908 Walsh was 40-15 with a 1.42 and led the league in wins, games pitched (66), games started (49), complete games (42), shutouts (11), saves (6), innings pitched (464.0) and Ks (343). His arm gave out — shocker — and he was done at the age of 32.

But let's go back. What's John Wayne's Rushmore? Go, and remember the mailbag.

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