by Mack Williams
29 October 2014
I. Pitchers of L.A.?
On the most recent episode of Preachers of L.A., Pastor Wayne Chaney and his wife Myesha were outside kind of shooting baskets and messing around on the court. The musical accompaniment to this scene was an instrumental version of Take Me Out To The Ball Game…which would have been great, except for the fact that this is a song about attending a baseball game. There are not one, nor two, nor three strikes to be out on in basketball.
Wouldn’t “Basketball,” by Kurtis Blow, have been a better choice?
II. Spurs Again or Don’t Change
In 1986, just barely after the Mets’ world championship ticker tape was removed off the streets of New York City, the Mets decided not to bring back left fielder Kevin Mitchell and third baseman Ray Knight. Mitchell, whom they claimed was a bad influence on Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, went on to hit 47 home runs and become the 1989 National League MVP. The Mets, winners of 108 regular season games in their 1986 championship season, have yet to win the World Series since.
Unfortunately…for Met fans, that is…their management did not heed the words of one Ric Flair, who has stated that “in order to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” Until someone showed that they were better than that enormously talented young team, they should have gone forward with what they had…which brings us to our NBA Preview.
This year the defending champion San Antonio Spurs have basically brought back their entire squad that ran roughshod through the whole playoffs, which is a plus. Having Kawhi Leonard – who is on his way to becoming the leader of the Spurs and one of the greats in this league – is a gigantic plus, and one of the reasons why the advancing age of their Big 3 is less of a problem than it could be. My prediction is that for the first time in their success-filled run, the Spurs will win consecutive titles.
III. Could’ve Fooled Me
If I didn’t know any better, all the media coverage, magazine covers, and Vegas odds would make me believe LeBron James’ team won the title back in June. That said, I would question whether King James’ current team – named by some as the odds-on favorites to win the championship – is currently better than his previous one. Maybe they will get there, but I’m not sure they’re there now.
The Cavs will score the ball and will certainly win a bunch of high-scoring contests, but if the truth be told, it was stifling defense that the Miami Heat could hang their hat on to turn games around. I don’t doubt Cleveland can win 118-116 now…but can they win 88-86 in May? With a recovered Derrick Rose and the addition of Pau Gasol and rookie Doug McBuckets, I believe the Chicago Bulls will make their first trip to the NBA finals since the Jordan era.
IV. Eastern Contenders
It’s best, if you have LeBron James on your roster, to keep him…but if you can’t, bringing in Luol Deng, Danny Granger, and Josh McRoberts is about as good as you can do. So the Miami Heat should remain in the upper echelon of the weaker Eastern Conference, along with the Washington Wizards (having added Paul Pierce), the Toronto Raptors and the Charlotte Hornets (having added the mercurial Lance Stephenson).
The Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets should round out the Eastern playoff contenders – although one of the above will be going home after the regular season. The Boston Celtics – should they retain Rajon Rondo – and the youthful and athletic Milwaukee Bucks, with the “Greek Freak” and Jabari Parker, will be back in the playoffs soon, but they are long shots for this year.
V. Western Contenders
Where do you start? Maybe with the team that I have predicted to win the title sometime soon, the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder’s biggest problem this year is that Kevin Durant is out for a while at the beginning of the season…although that presents an opportunity for us as fans to see an extended stretch of the superb talent Russell Westbrook as the head honcho in OKC. The problem is that in the Western Conference, the games that they play without KD may make their playoff seeding slip, making their road to the finals harder.
At the top of the list of other contenders are the new kings of Los Angeles, the Clippers, who are without the distractions of last season. The Golden State Warriors with their Splash Brothers backcourt remain dangerous, as do the Portland Trail Blazers. The Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, and Phoenix Suns will all be in the hunt, as well as the Denver Nuggets if they are healthy and the New Orleans Pelicans, who will benefit from the explosion Anthony Davis’ game. Once again, at least two Western teams that could have been third seeds in the East will be eliminated in the West.
VI. No One Knows
The other day I was in discussion with someone who has had some real issues with a close family member extending back several years. I shared my wishes that there could be some reversal or reconciliation, a concept that they proceeded to dismiss as a real possibility.
And then came the news about the death of the 22-year-old St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras. The last time some of us may have heard his name was when he hit a big pinch-hit home run in the National League Championship Series; now he’s gone.
We don’t know when our number, or anyone else’s, will ultimately be called, or if we – while remaining alive – will regress to a point where communication as we know it will be impossible. Wouldn’t it be a shame if you carry some dispute with someone you have loved to the grave without resolution?
VII. One More Time
In this year of Mo’ne Davis, I thought it apropos to throw her picture up once again on the eve of Game 7 of the World Series. Look for Madison Bumgarner to add to his growing post-season legend by coming in on three days rest to help the Giants win Game 7 on the road.