The Opening Pitch: Finally, a little pressure for LeBron.
This season had been a little bit too easy: Leading the Cavs to the league's best record. Winning a second straight MVP. Dangling his free agency, if only because he can. (Even David Stern says he wants LeBron to stay in Cleveland.)
So it is refreshing to see LeBron and the Cavs stumble -- losing home-court advantage against the old-but-not-forgotten Celtics. (Hmm: Rondo sure looked pretty spry to me. Heck, so did Old Man 'Sheed.)
This doesn't change everything, but it means that LeBron will have to win at least one of the three games in Boston if he wants to get out of this round.
And it is a glaring reminder of the "Title or Bust" stakes for King James in these NBA Playoffs: Anything less than a championship is an utter failure for him, the defining accomplishment (or lack of one) of his career.
Last night's "M!-V!-P!" chant from the home crowd was nice. But you can't wear it on your finger.
NBA Playoff Mania: Very good night for PGs last night. Rajon Rondo did what he wanted to with the Cavs D, racking up a franchise-tying 19 assists.
Meanwhile, Steve Nash had one of his best playoff games ever, with 33 pts (13/19 FG) and 10 ast in the Suns' G1 win. Too early to hop off the Spurs bandwagon? (Certainly the Spurs-in-6 bandwagon.)
Tonight: Look for more dominance from Kobe in Game 2 vs. Utah. Plus: How will going 7 against the Bucks affect the Hawks in Orlando; the Magic have been rested and ready since the middle of last week.
MLB Talking Points:
• Cards-Phils: QS from STL's Garcia.
• Still rolling: Ubaldo (13 Ks, 6th W).
• Theo: Ready to implode Red Sox?
• Not too big to fail: The Rangers.
• Stud: Brett Cecil (Perfect thru 7, 10 Ks.)
• Run on the field? Tasered.
NBA Coaching Carousel: Vinny Del Negro is out with the Bulls. His 2-year tenure was defined by an "altercation" with Bulls VP of hoops ops, John Paxson, which undoubtedly sealed his fate. VDN's higlight was last year's inspired playoff series against the Celtics.
CBB Coaching Carousel: Mike Rice, architect of Robert Morris' near-upset of Villanova in the NCAA Tournament, is going to be the next coach at Rutgers -- a local (and logical) choice. Speaking of local, who's going to take over for Tim Welsh at Hofstra, after the new coach suddenly resigned after his weekend DUI?
CBB Offseason: Duke-Butler rematch on Dec. 4 in East Rutherford, NJ. It's fun -- not to mention a much-needed extra bit of national exposure for Butler -- but I can't help but think it will diminish the memory of that classic title game a month ago, especially if Duke throttles Butler by 20. Hopefully, all it will do is remind us just how amazing it was.
Crimes: This UVA lacrosse murder is horrific and sad. After the Duke case, you want to reserve judgment -- the < aa href=http://www.sportingnews.com/blog/the_sporting_blog/entry/view/64810/murder_rocks_virginia_lacrosse_programs>circumstances won't let that happen. Above all: Condolences to Yeardley Love's family and friends.
(It feels callous to bring it up, but with Virginia being the top-ranked team in men's lacrosse, you have to wonder how this will impact the team heading into the NCAA Tournament. Same with the elite-ranked women's team.)
It's about time: Big Ben reportedly gets a behavioral evaluation. Wonder when that will get leaked?
Dez Bryant snafu: So if Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland had asked "So when was the last time your mom sold crack?" it would have all been OK?
CFB Bowling: Before the Papajohns.com Bowl or the Poulon Weedeater Bowl -- or even the BCS -- there was the "FedEx Orange Bowl." No more. At least, the "FedEx" part. If it feels like FedEx has always been part of that bowl, it's because it has been: At 21 years, the longest-running bowl sponsorship affiliation. Here's how old it is: I can remember writing a paper about the FedEx sponsorship of the Orange Bowl back in high school.
Sports Gambling: The answer is still "No" in Delaware.
Books: "Are We Winning?" It's not just a reasonable question for any sports fan -- it's the title of a new baseball book by Sporting News columnist Will Leitch, out today. Terrific addition to your sports-book library (and a great Father's Day gift for the dad in your life who likes baseball).
Mea Culpa: While dismissing Rory McIlroy's 62 at Quail Hollow as irrelevant, given that Tiger wasn't around to draw people's attention to the event, I neglected to highlight Ryo Ishikawa's staggering 58 in Japan. He's 18 and the closest thing to an on-the-course heir to Tiger that the world has right now.
The Last Word: "Hopefully he'll stay." -- David Stern, on the prospects of LeBron remaining in Cleveland this summer.
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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