This and That
Each week I'll give my thoughts on the world of sports:
• I had a blast calling the Miami Heat-Denver Nuggets game last week. I really enjoyed watching the greatest athletes in the world, guys who perform like Mikhail Baryshnikov in shorts. Think about it, guys who are 6-8 and 6-9 showing such mobility and agility. It was really special to be embraced by the fans, players and the coaches. I've known George Karl for years and he has done so much for The V Foundation, joining the President's Club. It was also nice to catch up with so many guys I've known over the years, like Bob McAdoo (now a Heat assistant coach), Ron Rothstein (also a Heat assistant) and Rex Chapman (in the Nuggets front office). By the way, McAdoo has a daughter who is an excellent tennis player with a very bright future!
• In rating the crème de la crème of the NBA, here are my top three: third-Dwyane Wade of the Heat. It was a pleasure to watch him again in person after calling several of his games at Marquette. He was on a different level against Denver; maybe he should be in another league the way he played, baby! Between slam, bam, jam, hitting jump shots and defending, he was awesome, baby with a capital A! My pick at #2 is Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, who has become so good passing the rock and making his teammates better. That is why the Lakers are going to be so tough in the very competitive Western Conference. I still have to go with LeBron James as numero uno. He is getting better and better and his Cavaliers look tough to stop after beating the Celtics last Friday.
• To me, there are six teams in the mix to win the NBA championship. I rate the Lakers, Cavaliers, Magic, Spurs, Hornets and Celtics as the elite clubs with the best shot of cutting down the nets in June. Boston has hit some hard times lately, but this is a passionate, hard-working team and Doc Rivers' squad, after an amazing start, should bounce back and challenge in the Eastern Conference. Don't forget about the Magic and the job being done by Stan Van Gundy. Dwight Howard is a double-double machine and Jameer Nelson has been outstanding at the point.
• The NFL playoffs have turned into shock city. Come on, how many of you has the Eagles and Cardinals playing next week for the right to be in the Super Bowl? Not too many people could have seen the Ravens making the AFC title game as a sixth-seed. The Steelers were the only home team to win its game in the NFL's version of the Elite Eight. It just shows that if you get hot at the right time, it can all pay off. Number one seeds in the NFL playoffs have not fared that well in recent years. My friends, it is called parity and the NFL loves having such fierce competition and balance.
• It didn't take long for Eric Mangini to get another head coaching job after being let go by the New York Jets. Hey, I'm happy for him since he is a fellow paison! How about some linguini and pasta to celebrate his four-year deal to coach the Cleveland Browns, where he began his NFL career as a bellboy under then-coach Bill Belichick. Mangini had winning records in two of his three seasons with the Jets. Now he inherits a club with a lot of offensive talent, including Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow.
• Is this the end of the line for Adam "Pacman" Jones? The recent announcement that the Cowboys were releasing him couldn't be too big of a shock considering the decisions he has made over the years. Sometimes it is about putting yourself into a difficult situation as much as the actions you are involved in. I think it would be very tough for another NFL team to take a chance on him at this point; it would be a PR nightmare if he signs and then gets in trouble with the law again. He clearly has talent, but those bad decisions made off of the field have caught up with him again.
• As I stated previously in this column, I expected Tim Tebow to return for his senior season at Florida. This young man is a winner and he enjoys life on the college campus. I don't understand why a lot of players leave early when they can enjoy the limelight as the BMOC (big man on campus) and still have time to enjoy a great pro career and make the big bucks? There are some who have to leave school early to help out their family situation, and I get that. In the case of Tebow, it reminds me of Tyler Hansbrough at North Carolina and the way he enjoys college life.
• How wacky is college basketball? One night, Boston College goes down to Chapel Hill, North Carolina and stuns the Tar Heels. There were some who felt Roy Williams' team would run the table a la Bob Knight and the Hoosiers in 1976. Al Skinner's team put an end to that and landed in the top 25. That was short-lived as Boston College went out in its next game and was a shock city victim at home against Harvard. The Crimson had never beaten a ranked team before in men's basketball! Congratulations to coach Tommy Amaker and his kids on the big upset.
• When the Tar Heels lost at Wale Forest Sunday night, it showed that the Demon Deacons are for real. The win at BYU had to be a confidence booster, and Jeff Teague was the star of stars as Dino Gaudio's team send North Carolina to its first 0-2 ACC start since 1996-97. My friends, it is early in league play, and I still feel the Tar Heels are the team to beat. You have to be impressive with Wake, off to its best start since 1980-81. Between Wake, Duke, North Carolina and Clemson, the ACC has a lot of talent.
• Ottawa Senators forward Jarkko Ruutu was suspended two games for biting the hand of a Buffalo Sabres player. Are you serious? That is inhumane to bite another athlete and a clear attempt to injure an opponent. What kind of message does that send to suspend a guy for just two games? The action and the penalty were ludicrous and absurd.