Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: Spurs Suck Souls

↵Today's Calls: Spurs vs. Lakers, Hornets vs. Expectations, Jon Lester vs. Immortality, Albert Pujols vs. Ryan Ludwick, Frank Thomas vs. Evan Longoria, Tim Donaghy vs. Charles Barkley, Jay-Z vs. the Fans and More ↵

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↵The Opening Pitch: It has long been speculated that the Spurs were sucking the soul out of basketball, and now it's confirmed: ↵

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↵There wasn't a team that represented the soul of basketball more this season than the Hornets. And those same Hornets had beaten the Spurs 3 times in New Orleans, decisively. ↵

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↵But do-or-die is where the Spurs' vampire-like cold-blooded approach is most evident: Unfazed in the face of a crazy crowd, an amped opponent and even elimination itself. Advantage: Spurs. ↵

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↵It would be almost admirable if watching their progression didn't suck the emotion -- positive or negative -- out of fans following the playoffs. ↵

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↵Instead, we are left to lament the end of a truly dream season for the Hornets, one of the more likeable season-long stories in the history of the NBA. ↵

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↵And we are left to lament even more that the NBA's "Doomsday" Finals scenario of Spurs-Pistons seems more real than ever: ↵

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↵Even the soulless Spurs can find some very human motivation in specifically lusting to oust the MVP and their closest rival to the Duncan Dynasty. ↵

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↵If the Spurs are this good when "all-business," what will happen when they play with passion? ↵

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↵What's next for the Hornets? They reached a new baseline after a breakthrough season for the franchise and its face, Chris Paul. (David West's emergence as a Second Star helped, too.) ↵

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↵In many ways, this magical run was a bonus. But now they face the burden of expectations: There is very little room to move upward, if they want to match this season's success. ↵

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↵Jon Lester throws a no-hitter, the first in baseball this season. Given Lester's battle with cancer, this one is pretty amazing. Hmm: How many pitchers have BOTH thrown a no-hitter and won a World Series clincher? It's like he went from facing his own mortality to baseball immortality. (Not to be lost in the celebration: Jason Varitek has caught an MLB-record 4 no-no's.) ↵

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↵MLB Instant History: You can have Albert Pujols' 2-HR game (11 on the season); I'll take Ryan Ludwick with 1 (12 on the season). ... Adding injury to insult, the Padres will likely put Jake Peavy on the DL. ... Speaking of 2-HR games, how about the ageless Frank Thomas? Other end of the experience spectrum: ↵Rays rookie Evan Longoria had his biggest hit yet as a big-leaguer, a 2-R HR in the 13th to lead the Rays over the A's. ... ↵Fantasy Stud: Tim Redding -- who had the Nats SP in the 6-Win Club? ... Stat of the Day: Dodgers rookie Blake DeWitt is ↵6-for-6 with the bases loaded, including last night's game-winning single in the bottom of the 9th. ... MLB needs an instant-replay policy, at the very least on home runs (see Geovany Soto last night). ... A-Rod is scheduled to come back today (but do you really care?) ↵

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↵One Thing to Know About the NHL Playoffs: We have a Stanley Cup finals matchup! The Wings finally dispatched the pesky Stars; they will face the upstart Penguins with their own Star, Sidney Crosby. ↵

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↵NBA Ref-Gambling Scandal: Do you believe Tim Donaghy when he says that games are influenced by relationships between refs, coaches and players? Or do you believe the NBA's self-serving denials? Put it this way: I believe Donaghy more than I believe the league. ↵

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↵Quote of the Day: "I've got to stop gambling." That is Charles Barkley on TNT's pre-game show last night. ↵

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↵Wanna bet he can't? When you're as much of an addict as Barkley is, you don't just say, "I'm done" and have it work. Barkley needs professional help, as much as any alcoholic or drug addict. Here's hoping he is smart enough to get it. ↵

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↵(Unless he doesn't really WANT to get it, and the only reason he said it was for P.R. Despite Barkley's rep for being a straight-talker, I wouldn't doubt it that -- like any addict -- he would say anything to get people to stop focusing on his problem.) ↵

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↵The Last Word: I love the NBA lottery. It goes back to my youth as a Bullets fan, where the lottery was our playoffs. (Sadly, the franchise's only "win" in the lottery produced Kwame Brown.) ↵

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↵I love that in the right year, it can instantly remake a franchise. ↵(Although winning Greg Oden didn't do much for the Blazers last season, and winning Kevin Durant coincided with the Sonics leaving ↵Seattle.) ↵

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↵This year, there is a similar "can't-miss/tough-choice": Versatile PF Michael Beasley or instant star PG Derrick Rose. The team that wins the lottery has the tough choice; the team picking 2nd wins by default. ↵

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↵(There is a dream scenario for the NBA: The Knicks win the lottery and get Rose to run D'Antoni's new offense; the Heat come in 2nd and pick Beasley to pair with Wade and Marion.) ↵

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↵I love that the lottery has become a star-studded affair: Jay-Z will be there tonight, representing the Nets; the Kings went the other way, sending a fan to be the face (and good-luck charm) of the franchise. ↵

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↵Given my own personal connection as a fan with the lottery, how could I not root for the Kings fan to bring the team some luck? (Full coverage tomorrow morning.) ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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