I’ve lived in Las Vegas for 5+ years now. During my residency here, no fight has had the impact on this town like Oscar de la Hoya vs Floyd Mayweather. I saw the fight Saturday night. Before the opening bell, I shared with friends my pros and cons for each fighter. Based on all I knew about the two, I thought Mayweather would win it by decision. He did. (Judge Tom Kaczmarek gave the win to Oscar in the split decision; he was slightly confused.) But that’s not the point of this segment.
For spectacle value, there is absolutely nothing like a big-name championship fight. That includes Super Bowls; I’ve been to two of them. I’ve been to World Series games, and NBA and NHL finals. No comparison! I’ve always felt that way about heavyweight title fights, but this one, a fight for the WBC super welterweight belt with the quality of de la Hoya versus Mayweather, was equal to the statement. The fight was the largest grossing event in boxing history. It was a spectacular event in the city that is uniquely spectacular in itself.
Roger Clemens will prove to be terribly overpaid at $18 million for his four months (anticipated start in bigs is June 1 vs Boston) of work this season. Clemens will soon be 45. The deal shows:
How truly desperate the Yankees are for pitching.
How little quality pitching is available anywhere for any team to acquire.
How watered down baseball really is if Clemens is effective this season.
What hasn’t been confirmed are the “special preferential arrangements” granted to Clemens in addition to the crazy part-time salary, ala the time he’ll actually spend with the team. And I question how the Yankees players “really feel” about the deal. I know how I’d feel, and I’d make sure George knew it at contract time.
Darryl Stingley was only 26 and a star
receiver with the New England Patriots when he collided with Jack Tatum of
Oakland on Aug. 12, 1978. With one jolt, his life was forever changed. His neck
was broken; he was left a quadriplegic. In time, he regained limited movement in
his right arm and was able to operate his electric wheelchair on his own.
On April 5 of this year, the after-effects of Stingley's grievous injury finally took his life at age 55.
Story of the Week
THE STATE OF THE LAKERS
Other than the many, many, many, many times Dan Patrick reminds his ESPN radio listeners each day that they’re listening to “the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio” (It does get old, Dan. We know what we’re listening to.), I usually enjoy the show and usually respect the expressed opinions. But his uninformed callers-in, show guest Michael Wilbon included, continue to blame Kobe Bryant for Shaquille O’Neal being gone from the Lakers. O’Neal was as big a baby as Bryant; their egos were and are enormous. And it was O’Neal who stated that "I expect $30 million a year on a long-term contract when my current Lakers contract expires.” See ya!
I keep hearing about Kobe’s attitude. For openers, Kobe doesn’t take half the season off ala O’Neal. If he did, the Lakers would have the fewest wins in the NBA. And if it’s attitude you want to talk about, try this one on. The 2002-2003 NBA season began with the three-time defending champions getting off to one of their worst starts ever. The team was several games under .500, and many wondered if they would even make the playoffs. Shaquille O'Neal was sidelined with a toe injury. O'Neal could have had surgery on his toe early in the summer, which would have allowed him to return to playing sooner, but he decided to wait and have the surgery performed not long before the Lakers' pre-season training camp began. He said, "I got hurt on company time, so I’ll heal on company time."
Mitch Kupchak was in over his head, and still is. The Lakers’ problems could have been resolved by one person, and that person is the very best executive and architect in basketball history, Jerry West. Had owner Jerry Buss not run West out of town, the trio of Bryant, O’Neal and Phil Jackson would have stayed together, and there would be more championship banners hanging at Staple Center today. So, Dan Patrick, please advise your less-than-informed listeners that if they want to blame anyone for the plight of the Lakers, blame Jerry Buss. To quote Harry Truman, “the buck stops here!” The Buss does as well.
Now that we’ve covered the past, let’s cover the future; that’s really all that counts now anyway. Kobe voiced his frustration with the team after the recent Phoenix playoff series. So did Jackson. Kobe wants help, and deserves help, and he’d better get help before he can’t play the game at this level anymore. Although he’s only 28, he’s an old 28 based on all of his career playing minutes during his 11 years in the NBA, 11 years now, and his optimum clock is ticking.
To get quality, you usually have to give quality. The only quality, at least perceived potential quality the Lakers have, other than the great Bryant of course, is 19-year-old center Andrew Bynum, the NBA’s youngest player. If ("if" is the operative word) young Bynum, now a two-year veteran, ever comes through, it might be years from now. Neither Bryant nor Jackson is interested in Bynum’s potential. Potential means nothing to either Kobe or Phil, nor should it based on their present career points.
If I’m the GM of the Lakers, I now ask one question…………will Andrew Bynum be good enough to be a legitimate force in the NBA next season with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s highly concentrated off-season help with the kid? I would meet with Jackson, Kobe and Kareem for this discussion and their opinions. (Kareem has been Bynum’s designated tutor, and no one knows the center position better.) Ideally, the consensus is yes, and I then concentrate on improving the team around Kobe and Bynum as much as I can. If the answer is no, I put Bynum on the block to see what Bynum and Lamar Odom would bring me now. (FYI, based on the NBA salary cap, if you move Bynum’s low salary for high-priced payroll in return, then you have to move Odom’s salary as well to compensate.) I then decide the best move to make as GM.
Bottom line: As great as Kobe is, nothing less than the best player in the NBA, he can’t do it himself. No one can! And if the Lakers don’t get him some bona-fide quality help soon, they can forget about winning another flag while Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson are still there, and more than likely well into the future after that.
Last Week’s Trivia
The 1961 Chicago Cubs wrote managerial history. They used eight managers by committee in the same season. Actually, it was four different coaches, two different stints each, at the helm of the team. (Harry Craft, Vedie Himsl, Lou Klein and El Tappe). It was almost a brilliant idea; they were 64-90 and seventh in the NL.
Trivia Question of the Week
The very first kickoff of Super Bowl 1 (the Roman numeral didn't appear until Baltimore met Dallas in 1971 in Super Bowl V) had to be replayed. Why? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.