This and That
Each week I'll give my thoughts on the world of sports:
• Congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers as the franchise is going for its record 30th trip to the NBA Finals starting Thursday. The Lakers are shooting for their 15th NBA championship. Kobe Bryant and company would not allow the Denver Nuggets to extend the series to a seventh game. Bryant is the best finisher in the game and he came through with play after play in game five and game six of the Western Conference finals. Phil Jackson gets another shot at his 10th championship. Now the Lakers have a little time off.
• Give credit to the Orlando Magic. Stan Van Gundy's team was outstanding in game six, with all the pressure on. Almost everybody picked the Cavaliers to win the series, but Dwight Howard was a major force inside. Salute guys like Rafer Alston, Mickael Pietrus, Rashard Lewis as Orlando is going to the finals. There is a buzz in Orlando and this final series should be a dogfight.
• I feel LeBron James was a frustrated player in the emotion of a loss following Cleveland's elimination. I know some people are talking about the fact LeBron did not shake hands, left the court right away and blew off the post-game press conference. King James worked so hard all season, an MVP year, and he was disappointed that his team fell short of the championship. I believe he will learn from this experience and come back even stronger. Let's remember Cleveland was the best team in the league during the regular season and the future is still bright for the Cavaliers. I really feel James will stay in Cleveland when he has the chance to test free agency.
• When you look at the French Open, there were so many surprises in week one. Number one was Rafael Nadal losing to Robin Soderling, snapping the Spaniard's 31-match record at the French. Nadal had not lost a set at the French in two years. Among the other big shocks came when Venus Williams was knocked off in straight sets by Agnes Szavay of Hungary, the 29th seed. It marked the fourth time in five years she has suffered an early exit. This time, it wasn't the fact she lost, but the way she was humiliated, losing 6-0, 6-4. She was never in the first set against Szavay, a decent player but not one who should put up a goose egg on Venus' side of the scoreboard. Will Venus bounce back at Wimbledon? She certainly has a much better track record there compared to Roland Garros! Novak Djokovic was also bounced in straight sets, a stunner since many figured him for a semifinal slot. One bad day and hopes for a Grand Slam title disappear. Roger Federer has to be happy about his chances for his first French title.
• The Stanley Cup finals got underway in Detroit as the Red Wings and Penguins played back-to-back days with the same result. Mike Babcock's team held Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin relatively in check to take a 2-0 series lead. It is a rematch of last year's series, won by Detroit. Crosby is such a special talent and Detroit has such tradition. The bottom line is momentum, momentum, momentum and Pittsburgh needs a win in the next game of this thing is history, baby!
• Calvin Borel will be going for his own personal triple crown, riding Mine That Bird. You remember the incredible job the jockey did riding this 50-1 shot to victory at the Kentucky Derby. Then he switched to the filly, Rachel Alexandra and won the Preakness. The decision was made to keep Rachel Alexandra out of the Belmont Stakes, the longest of the Triple Crown events, so now Borel is taking over for Mike Smith on Mine That Bird when he races at Belmont.
• There was breaking news out of Memphis last week. Reports of an NCAA investigation into the grades of former star Derrick Rose, who was the NBA's Rookie of the Year in 2009. Let's wait until all of the results are in. The John Calipari bashers are in full force, anticipating the Memphis Final Four banner coming down, the same way a banner was pulled from the rafters at Massachusetts following controversy over Marcus Camby and illegal gifts from an agent. Calipari can't be blamed for that. Let's see what happens when Memphis has its day in front of the NCAA enforcement group.