Shanoff's W.U.C.: Celtics vs. NBA Oblivion

Today's Calls: Celtics vs. Oblivion, LeBron vs. Kobe, John Madden vs. History, Sharks vs. Chokes, Marlins vs. Yankees, Mark Sanchez vs. Matt Stafford, Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer, Patty Mills vs. Ty Lawson and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: I'll tell you who is NOT winning the NBA title -- the Celtics. ↵

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↵Even at full strength, they weren't going to successfully defend their championship, simply because they wouldn't be able to beat Cleveland when the Cavs have home court advantage and all the mojo in the East. ↵

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↵Now, with the prospects of not having Kevin Garnett for the playoffs? I don't think that the Celtics will make it out of their East semifinal battle with the fiesty Magic. (Sean Deveney thinks they could lose the Bulls in Round 1.) ↵

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↵Shoals is more direct, and I agree with him: The C's are effed. ↵

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↵So what are we supposed to do for the next two months? That the Finals will be Lakers-Cavs feels like an inevitability. The middle rounds? Ehh: "Context," I could charitably call it. ↵

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↵The Celtics are doing their part in one key way: The only dramatic thing we have to entertain ourselves between now and the Finals is the moment when -- not if -- Boston is ousted. ↵

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↵At least Celtics fans had last year -- because their "era" is over. ↵

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↵Playoff Picks: ↵

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↵In the East, it's the Cavs and their home court advantage. In the first round, it's less of a big thing (Detroit is not the Atlanta Hawks from last season). Against the Heat in the semis or the Magic in the Finals, it will be. LeBron vs. Wade, then LeBron vs. Howard? Welcome to the future of the NBA. ↵

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↵Quarters ↵
↵CLE d. DET in 5 ↵
↵MIA d. ATL in 7 ↵
↵ORL d. PHI in 5 ↵
↵BOS d. CHI in 7 ↵

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↵Semis ↵
↵CLE d. MIA in 7 ↵
↵ORL d. BOS in 6 ↵

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↵Finals ↵
↵CLE d. ORL in 7 ↵

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↵In the West, it's pretty obvious since December: Lakers. The No. 2 seed hasn't made it out of the first round of the playoffs in forever. The No. 3 seed is missing its playoff X-factor. The No. 4 seed is statistically sound, but not good enough to beat L.A. ↵

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↵Quarters ↵
↵LAL d. UTA in 5 ↵
↵POR d. HOU in 7 ↵
↵SA d. DAL in 7 ↵
↵DEN d. NO in 7 ↵

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↵Semis ↵
↵LAL d. POR in 7 ↵
↵SA d. DEN in 6 ↵

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↵Finals ↵
↵LAL d. SA in 4 ↵

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↵So when Kobe and LeBron meet in the Finals, who wins -- besides TV executives looking for the best possible Finals matchup? The Lakers will break the Cavs' home court advantage, just like they did in February. After that, Kobe and Co. roll. ↵

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↵Kobe and the Lakers win the title in 5. ↵

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↵John Madden retires: Why is Madden irreplaceable? Because he was the most important and influential sports media figure ever. ↵

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↵With his accessible and enthusiastic commentary, he redefined the "analyst" position (at a time when the NFL was skyrocketing in popularity and exposure through TV, which lasted from the pre-cable, concentrated-audience days of the ‘80s to the cable explosion of the ‘90s and the online explosion of the ‘00s). ↵

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↵After redefining game analysis, he transcended it. First, as a near-ubiquitous TV pitchman for everything from beer to hardware stores. Then, in the greatest achievement of his career, as a video-game icon for multiple generations of fans -- none of whom ever knew him as an actual coach. ↵

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↵There are plenty of big personalities in sports media. Madden was the biggest -- and most successful. ↵

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↵NHL Playoffs: San Jose Chokes! I mean "Sharks." But you'd be forgiven for confusing the two, as the top-seeded team in the West was blanked by the 8th-seeded Ducks in San Jose. I know most fans figured San Jose wouldn't translate its regular season into the playoffs, but did anyone really think the fall would start in the first round? ↵

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↵MLB: If you're looking for "the next Rays," you don't have to leave the state of Florida. Two weeks into the season, the Marlins are baseball's biggest sensation -- with MLB's best record and among its lowest (if not the lowest) payroll. ↵

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↵The latest sign it's one of "those" seasons? The Fish went into Atlanta and swept 3 games from their division rival ... for the first time ever. I know 9 games isn't a viable sample size, but I'm a big fan of the idea that foreshadowing for the season appears early. This feels like no fluke for Florida. ↵

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↵Yankees ruin debut of "new" Stadium: At the other end of the spectrum is the Yankees, now middling at .500 after getting blown out by the Indians in the debut of the "new" Yankee Stadium, which feels awfully like last year's version, based on the team's success rate this season. CC Sabathia limited his old team to only 1 run, but threw 122 pitches in less than 6 innings; when he exited, so did the Yankees' chances. His 'pen blew it. ↵

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↵More: ↵

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↵• Nats win! Nats win! (Finally.) ↵

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↵• Milestones: Ichiro is Japan's Hit King ↵

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↵• Zito Watch: Same old, same old ↵

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↵• All-Star: Pujols in the Derby! ↵

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↵• Fantasy Studs: Chris Duncan | John Danks ↵

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↵NFL Draft: Mark Sanchez is the hottest name of the 1st round. Not only are there a handful of teams that need a good QB, but I think teams recognize that if Sanchez stuck around USC for another year, he would be the No. 1 overall pick -- by far the top-rated QB prospect. ↵

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↵(While he may have left some rookie-contract money on the table by coming out early, he will be better faster for having a year of NFL coaching over a 4th year of college coaching. Why does faster matter? Because he'll get to his free-agency year faster -- if he's THAT good, there's a big payoff waiting.) ↵

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↵CFB Spring: Alabama's game gets the marquee ESPN coverage, but the defending champs's game may showcase something novel -- Tim Tebow taking snaps under center, rather than from the shotgun. ↵

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↵NBA Draft: Patty Mills will test the draft (he's a 1st-round lock), but strangely there's no word yet from Ty Lawson or Wayne Ellington. What are you waiting for, fellas? We all know what you're going to do. ↵

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↵The Last Word: The Paulus Watch continues! Michigan HAS reportedly offered him a scholarship and a chance to compete to be starting QB this fall. Not only do I think he'll accept the scholly, but I predict he will be starting this fall -- if not the first week, eventually. It remains the perfect spring-football story line that Paulus has unexpectedly emerged as THE name in college football this month. Rather than fault Rich Rodriguez for this move, I salute him for the innovative thinking. ↵

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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. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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

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