By: Bill Campbell
The favorite and star-studded Miami Heat lost basketball games 2, 4, 5 and 6 and ran out of tomorrows and the NBA championship final series. They bowed to the Dallas Mavericks on their own home court in Miami. The Heat lost 4 of the last 5 games in the finals despite 21 points for LeBron James, 17 for Dwayne Wade and 19 for Chris Bosh.
The result that most NBA fans were hoping for since the day “the decision” was announced, generating much animus not only in Ohio but in most cities around the league. The only way that James could produce a worthy response to his many critics, especially in Cleveland, was to win an NBA title. That the Heat won 72 games, regular season and/or playoffs, will soon be forgotten.
In the words of Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers whom James jilted with the glorified version of his big decision, “There are no short cuts. None.”
Much has been made of LeBron James’ mediocre performances in the 4th and final periods of this final playoff series. He scored 18 points total in the 4th quarters of 6 games and played the majority of the 12 minutes in all of those periods. In Game 4 he failed to score and in Games 2, 3 and 5 could manage only 2 points. He did hand off 11 assists and grabbed 11 rebounds in the 4th periods. The fans in Ohio probably loved his meaningless play down the stretch.
Mavs’ coach, Rick Carlisle, called his players “a true team, an old bunch that doesn’t run fast or jump high but they had each other’s backs, they played the right way, they trusted the pass.”
While Dirk Nowitzki carried the team through most of the season, it would not have been achieved without the 8 for 10 shooting of Jason Terry, which overcame Nowitzki’s 1 for 12 shooting in the first half. The Dallas victory was really best for the NBA, which now joins the NFL in labor negotiations, where another lockout is more than a remote possibility. The NBA collective bargaining agreement runs out on June 30th.
As the U.S. Open approaches at Congressional Country Club this week, the name of Tiger Woods keeps appearing – probably more so than when he competed. He had hopes of playing in the Open, hopes to play in later events this summer.
But people are starting to wonder about the severity of his injury. He has played injured previously — in fact he won the 2008 U.S. Open on a torn ACL. But his recent withdrawal from the Players’ Championship and, now, his decision regarding this Open has many wondering about his career. He is 35 years old, has won 14 majors, but the magic figure of 18 still belongs to Jack Nicklaus who also was 35 when he won his 15th.
So Tiger still has time on his side, providing he can get everything together. There are more than a few people involved in the future of Tiger Woods: the tournament hosts from coast to coast, the sponsors, the networks, the golf fans – all who have any kind of investment in his future emotional or financial. But most of all, Tiger Woods himself. Even in absentia Tiger will make his presence felt.
Caddie Steve Williams has been on Tiger’s bag for 13 of his 14 major championships. But Williams will caddie for Adam Scott this week at the U.S. Open. When Scott found out that Tiger wouldn’t be playing, his agent, Mark Steinberg, noted that Adam and Steve Williams have been friends for a long time. Scott called Williams and asked, “Can you help me out at the Open?” Williams then got permission from Tiger. So Congressional won’t be playing host to Tiger Woods this week. But his long time caddie will be there, thanks to Scott’s agent.
All of these low-scoring baseball games are having a profound effect on the game. The lowering of the pitcher’s mound in 1968 and the American League introduction of the designated hitter in 1972 didn’t seem to be the answer.
So another major change is being contemplated.
There has been some talk about adding a second wild card team, which would give us 5 playoff teams in each league. But most recently a return to 1968 is on the burner, possibly eliminating the divisions, and having two 15-team leagues with the top 5 in each league making the playoffs.
The Players Association is reported to be agreeable to this plan and there is a report that Houston or Arizona would move to the American League, which would give us 2 leagues of 15 teams each. Thus the top 5 in each league would make the playoffs. Don’t be surprised if this plan is adopted since the players seem to be in agreement.
There’s a lot of conversation about these low-scoring games, particularly the number of extra inning games. There are well over a 100 extra inning games through this date in June so far this season. Easily the most in major league history.
The game is on a pace to break the record of 210 extra inning games in a full season, which has been equaled 4 times. And in one day a week ago, there were 5 extra inning games. In one of them, a Pittsburgh-Arizona affair, 7 pitchers apiece were used in 12 innings. It was the 32nd time this season that games have lasted at least 12 innings, including 9 that have gone 14 innings or more.
We can easily recall that 19-inning affair that was played here in Philadelphia. That game ran so long that Phillies’ manager, Charlie Manuel, had to use infielder Wilson Valdez as a pitcher. And he became the first player to start a game in the field and become the winning pitcher since Babe Ruth in 1921.
There continues to be much comment about these long games and San Francisco manager, Bruce Bochy, thinks the reason for both is, “Most of the teams have pretty good bullpens. Thus games don’t get away.”
Baseball’s usual dominant pitcher used to be the starter. But in today’s game, the closer has reached that point of eminence. Ryan Madson has become a genuine Phillies star, even on a team with a solid starting rotation.