AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 13: (FILE PHOTO) On April 13, 2012 Tiger Woods won his first Masters 15 years ago in 1997. Woods put on the green jacket three more times following his first Masters win but has not won the title in seven years in Augusta, Georgia..Please refer to the following profile on Getty Images Archival for further imagery..http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/Search/Search.aspx?EventId=109077142&EditorialProduct=Archival#&esource=maplinARC_uki_apr12..1996 US Masters winner Nick Faldo of Great Britain helps 1997 winner Tiger Woods of the USA put on the Green Jacket after Woods won the US Masters on April 13, 1997 at Augusta, Georgia with a record low score of 18 under par. (Photo by Stephen Munday/Allsport/Getty Images)
We just can't get away from asking that question about Tiger Woods, just like we can't get away from Dwight Howard and his foolishness. All that, plus more, in the Monday Morning Jones.
I will not answer "is Tiger Woods back?" I will not answer "is Tiger Woods back?" But someone might search for "is Tiger Woods back?" so...
Is Tiger Woods back? I will not say Tiger Woods is "back." "Back" implies he's on a plane entirely his own, where the rest of the PGA Tour follows him like he's the North Star. You know, they can move toward him, but they're never actually getting closer. This week's win at the AT&T National doesn't mean he's there. That said, is anyone right now absolutely better than Woods? As our Andy Hutchins pointed out, his three wins are more than anyone this year, and more than anyone had all of 2011. He's first in FedEx Cup points, ranked fourth in the world and is the tour money leader. I've said, many times, that Tiger's become another guy on the Tour. That was unfair. He's no longer some superhero, but he's still the best golfer in the world. Considering how far he fell, that we can still say that in July 2012 says a lot about how singular Tiger Woods was, and how special he continues to be.
Everyone should be finished with Dwight Howard. It's not as if Howard hasn't already made a fool of himself in his confused attempts to leave Orlando. Or was he trying to stay in Orlando? After all, it was his decision to waive his early termination option and sign on for another season with the Magic. It was also his decision to call the union to try to get out of that same season he agreed to. Howard, clearly, has no idea what he actually wants. It's for that reason the Magic have to stop trying to work around his wishes, and they also need to give up on their desire to keep him around. Trade him to whomever will send back the best package and let Howard be their problem. After last season's debacle, everyone involved should have left town. Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith are already gone. And Howard, no matter how talented and irreplaceable he may be, has to be next. He's a liability until he figures out what he wants. Even the Nets, who have proven desperate for star power since Mikhail Prokhorov bought the team, seem willing to move on from dreams of Dwight. The Magic should only want one thing -- to be done with this madness.
Must we blame Aldon Smith for getting stabbed? It kills me when many folks, like Michael C. Jones of Yahoo!, use incidents like Smith's stabbing as a chance to knock the dust off the cliche that "not a whole lot good happens after midnight." Bullshit. Lots of good things happen after midnight, many of which just aren't happening at 9:45. Seventy-five percent of the best times of my life happened after midnight, and I bet you can say the same. That's why so many people go out after midnight. Unlike many of my colleagues, I will not look for a reason to blame Smith for being stabbed, other than to note the skewed risk-reward ratio of trying to break up a fight. There are safer, smarter ways to give back to the community. Certainly, lots of bad things happen after midnight, too. But the media's thirst to find a reason to blame athletes for everything bad that happens to them is sad. Rather than being glad a 22-year-old wasn't hurt while trying to defuse a situation, more folks want to figure out why it's his fault he got cut. As more details emerge, maybe we'll find out Smith should have used better judgment Saturday night. Until then, can't we just be happy things didn't end worse?
The curious case of Steve Nash. Let me be clear -- if I were Steve Nash, I'd take Toronto's money and not look back. It's a perfect situation. Aside from the salary -- three years and $36 million for a 38-year-old with a bad back -- the opportunity to be the basketball ambassador of his native country would be too much for me to pass up. Given how much has to come together for a championship, that's a better play than trying to catch on with Miami or anyone else, hoping to draft off his teammates and win that elusive ring. That said, let's not pretend everyone could get away with this, willfully signing with an awful franchise for a fat check at the expense of potential team glory. Nash is an all-time great, quite possibly the best shooter the NBA has ever seen. But usually, players that good are afforded scrutiny he's managed to dodge his entire career. To sign with Toronto is to put individual glory over team success, a supposed no-no in team sports. Get it how you live, but call it what it would be -- one last money grab at the twilight of a Hall of Fame career.
The even more curious case of Penn State and the NCAA. While the cases against Penn State administrators -- and the legacy of Joe Paterno -- look more damning than ever, I agree with everyone who says this is none of the NCAA's business. But consider the closest scandal I can think of to the mess in State College -- the death of Len Bias in 1986. After Bias died of a cocaine overdose, the NCAA showed up and found enough put Maryland on probation, punctuating the Lefty Driessell era with a damning period. Well, read the fourth paragraph of this story on Penn State.
The article said that among emails turned over to the Freeh team are messages written by former President Graham Spanier and Wendell V. Courtney, Penn State's former general counsel, "which describe steps the two men took to protect players."
If Penn State would go this far to bury allegations of child molestation, you're asking me to suspend disbelief to think there's nothing the NCAA should be concerned with. The NCAA has never been above piling on before and, clearly, there's something there worth its attention. Considering the irrelevant things it chooses to concern itself with, it's hard to believe it's too busy to at least kick the tires on what proved to be the most fraudulent operation in college sports. Should they stay away, fine. I'd just love to know, given the reasonable about of smoke, why they wouldn't send the fire trucks.
Are the Celtics sure they want to do this? So the Celtics want to keep the old gang back together? They know the gang is only going to get older, right? Sure, they pushed Miami to seven games. But let's not forget how much had to break right for that to happen. Derrick Rose got hurt, giving the Celtics the weakest second-round opponent of the playoffs. Chris Bosh was hurt and didn't return to the Heat lineup until Game 5 . Last season, there were real questions about whether it was time to end the "Big 3" era. Now, Boston's doubling down by re-signing Kevin Garnett for three years -- and $34 million! -- and offering Ray Allen double what Miami's willing to pay? Maybe this gets the Celtics one more title. More likely, this keeps them old when they should, instead, begin the difficult process of moving on.
What was the lockout about again? The Rockets signed Omer Asik to a three-year, $25 million offer sheet Sunday. Asik averaged 14.7 minutes per game last season. Not points. Not rebounds. Minutes. With the ball, he's useless. Asik is great rebounder and plays outstanding defense, but I thought there was just a lockout to stop things like this from happening. If Asik can still pull in more than $8 million per season and Roy Hibbert is deemed worthy of a max contract, someone owes us all 16 games. Not even a work stoppage could save these owners from themselves. This is the madness caused when star players have their salaries capped by a wage scale, leaving all kinds of excess cash to blow on far less talented players. The biggest winners of the post-1999 NBA have been the middle class. So long as the best have to take less, market forces will give the rest to those who probably don't deserve it. And the owners, the same ones who demanded things change after last season, will keep pretending someone's forcing them to sign these checks.
Let me try to care about the All-St ... OK, it's not happening. Rather than go through the MLB All-Star teams, I'll just give you these six words -- I'd rather watch the Pro Bowl. Granted, these teams should be matters of great import, seeing how they determine who would host Game 7 of the World Friggin' Series, but the All-Star Game died for me when the idea of seeing National and American Leaguers play against each other stopped being a rarity. I do not care who's on the team. I do not care if they got it right. I don't even know who all the players are. I don't care to watch batting practice the day before the game. It's fine if you do, though. That's to say, you should check out our stellar coverage of the All-Star Game at Baseball Nation.
One last go at Wimbledon? Every singles player left in the draw will take the court at Wimbledon on Monday. Escapes from Roger Federer and Serena Williams on Friday and Saturday, respectively, helped make that more interesting than it would be otherwise. It's hard not to see this as one last chance for both former champions, each clearly on the wrong side of their best days, but still capable of ruling at the All England Club. Rafael Nadal has been eliminated, making a potential matchup between Federer and Novak Djokovic in the semifinals a de facto championship match. Williams, though she has looked as beatable as she ever has, remains difficult to bet against. It would be special if both won Wimbledon this year, but also somewhat bittersweet. The realities of time and age make it unlikely either's chances will be better than in 2012.
Viva Espana, or something else in Spanish. Even those ignorant of most things soccer must marvel at what Spain has done the last four years. They won two straight Euros, plus a World Cup in between. They haven't yielded a goal in knockout play of a major tournament in six years. And after Mario Balotelli was the story of Euro 2012 until Sunday, the tournament ended with legitimate questions as to whether Spain's run was the greatest ever. Somewhere, Pele is laughing at such talk, but it would be silly not to entertain the discussion. They've made light work of the rest of the world for four years, in an era with more evenly distributed talent than in Brazil's best days. And they've done it all without a dominant center forward, making this run as aesthetically and strategically unique as it has been impressive.