We've got 10 days until the NFL Draft...and I still don't care. Moving on to what happened this weekend...
Just because it's the Heat doesn't mean we have to overreact. Folks continued throwing dirt on the Heat after their overtime loss to the Bulls on Thursday. So what to do after beating the Knicks, winners of 13 of 17 coming into the game, at Madison Square Garden? What we should have done before -- nothing. Miami withstood Carmelo Anthony's 42 points, held the rest of the team to 43, and closed late like they couldn't do against Chicago last week. They got bupkis from most of the team, but LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all showed up. The Heat were what they were against the Bulls, and what we've always known they were -- a highly flawed team with enough strengths and star-power to win it all. They won't win or lose the championship now. And if Dallas could shake off this embarrassing, emasculating loss to the Lakers last season -- the same Lakers they swept a month later -- there's nothing to discuss now but playoff seeding. And Miami will almost assuredly hold the same second seed they had last year. When they struggled against top competition in the regular season....before they won the East.
So I went to a fight, and a hockey game... It seems strange to say a game with 12 goals total was a "slugfest," just as one wouldn't expect a team to score four goals and still get doubled up. But that was Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center, where multiple brawls broke out, including this one near the end of regulation. Now the Penguins, down 3-0 to the Flyers, have to decide whether they'd rather get sent home by Philly or send the series back to Pittsburgh ... and still get sent home. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called Sunday's game "playoff hockey," replete with Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux dropping gloves halfway through the second period. Actually, sir, what's going on in this series is called an "ass-whoopin'," and the Pens are on the business end of it. We'll remember the violence from this series, but don't forget the Pens were one point away from the East's top playoff seed and were Vegas' favorite to win the Cup. Now, they're one game away from the offseason.
A "pop" is a bad thing, right? Gotta hand it to Brian Wilson. He might be the most optimistic man ever to stare down Tommy John surgery. But, while there are a lot of pitchers who say they threw harder after having an UCL replacement, how many of them were on their second procedure of the kind? And while Wilson says he saw this coming after the 2010 World Series, it couldn't have helped that he felt a "pop" and kept pitching to save a Madison Bumgartner win. Just as Buster Posey's leg wasn't worth one run at the plate, the Giants probably don't think Wilson's arm was worth one victory. Well, both of those trades were made. Now, the Giants have to try to win without one of the best closers in baseball.
In fairness to the injured Dwight Howard. As if this mess couldn't get trickier, Howard was diagnosed with a herniated disk in his back. It's enough to make it necessary to take a step back and think about what Howard's done this season. He's behaved like a child, run one of the most disastrous I-Wanna-Be-Traded campaigns of all-time, and been exposed as a phony while pushing for Stan Van Gundy's dismissal. But the man whom many claim "quit" on the Magic put up 20 points and 22 rebounds against the Sixers in his last game. Unless he herniated that disk since last Saturday, that's as impressive a quit-job as I've ever seen.
Here's Howard's game log for the season. Show me where he quit. Not where he didn't bring it for a night. Show me when he quit. Chances are you can't, unless you really think a man can get 15 boards a night without trying. There are lots of bad things to say about Howard. There's no need to invent more.
He's back ... for now, at least. Ozzie Guillen's suspension ended Sunday, and he'll be back in the Marlins' dugout to face the Cubs Tuesday night in Miami. Now that we've had a little distance from the story, it's necessary to filter out the noise and understand what really happened. Guillen really, really offended his baseball team's customers. Traditionally, they are always right. That's it. That was worth a five-game suspension, and it didn't require exposition. That's why we'll get a hint Tuesday, from fan reaction, as to whether a team-imposed five-game suspension was enough, and none of the national media chatter from last week will matter. While it became a national story, Guillen's mistake was only a local one, and that was the case from the moment it broke. It isn't one of right or wrong. If it were, as Grantland's Charles Pierce accurately points out, it wouldn't have been the simple, one-note discussion it became. It's about the people who funded the Marlins $2 billion stadium -- and had it put in their neighborhood -- being really pissed off, and Guillen and the Marlins finding a way to assuage their anger. It only had to do with that team, that community and their manager. For outsiders, it didn't need to be understood any more deeply than that. And Tuesday night, eavesdropping with the rest of America, we'll find out whether this story has run its course or will merely be in remission.
Long was wrong, too. No one's enjoyed laughing at Bobby Petrino more than me, but I've grown weary of the praise for Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long. Had Spike Lee gotten so much press for "doing the right thing," that movie would have done "Star Wars" numbers. But now that we know how complicit long was in hiring Petrino's mistress, it's worth noting he "did the right thing" when there was no other option. What was the "wrong" thing Long did? He pushed for a waiver of the state's affirmative action laws -- which require a job be posted for 30 days -- and got Long to sign off on it. Sure, the story that Arkansas needed that job filled to avoid violating NCAA recruiting rules sounded nice, but there should be nothing so pressing that it should prevent a college football program from doing its diligence and attempting to hire diversely. No one in this largely segregated industry deserves the benefit of the doubt, especially not when Petrino turned down a decidedly more qualified black applicant to hire Jessica Dorrell. Yet and still, Long signed off on it, and then asked the school to do the same. That's on him, too, and there was enough to raise red flags. Not necessarily that Dorrell was Petrino's mistress, but the good ol' boy network had struck again, even if the beneficiary was just who ol' boy was sleeping with.
Actually, Mr. Benson, he's not "due in" Monday. After announcing his plans to buy the New Orleans Hornets, Saints owner Tom Benson said the Saints and Drew Brees are close on a contract extension. ESPN reported there haven't been talks recently. Either way it goes, Brees is not "due in," as Benson said. Brees can show up for workouts Monday without signing his tender if he wants to, but he's not "due" anywhere without a contract. That said, maybe Benson's right and Brees' deal is almost done. Or maybe Mickey Loomis, as he's supposedly done before, just told the old man the contract was close, even though it's not. Either way, you'd think a team fraught with instability in its coaching staff would make signing the most important player in the history of the franchise its top priority. Even before naming a substitute teacher interim coach.
Hey, you know Alex Rodriguez hit a historic home run Friday, right? The world seemed pretty disinterested with Rodriguez's milestone 650th home run Friday. Well, if you don't want to praise A-Rod, look at it like this. Rodriguez broke in the big leagues at 18. He was a star by 21. He's got a totally implausible story about how he used steroids for only three years. At 36, he just passed Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth all-time with 650 home runs. And with all of that, he still won't pass Barry Bonds. So as much as we vilify those stars from the "Steroid Era," not even the once-juicy Rodriguez, quite possibly the most talented baseball player of his generation, can touch Bonds. Just remember this in 10 years or so when you're asked who's the greatest living ballplayer.
The only thing you need to see from spring football. Ladies and gents, South Cack!
Larry Brown interviewed where? Easily the best unemployed coach on the market, Brown might be the most underrated college coach of all-time. In just seven seasons, he made three Final Fours and won a championship between UCLA and Kansas. He also left both programs on probation. And now, at 72, he still wants to coach so badly that he interviewed for SMU's vacancy. The Mustangs could hire no one more qualified, and he's been out of basketball less than two seasons. Based on his track record, he wouldn't stay in Dallas for more than three years, which would have to make recruiting difficult and not be worth even SMU's time. So here we have a Hall of Fame coach, desperate for suitors for the first time in his career, who may have officially run out of people willing to put up with him. In Dallas, there's an arena league receiver who could relate to Brown right now.
When is going broke funny? The world got a good laugh when Warren Sapp filed for bankruptcy. Broke Americans find humor in finding out athletes are just like them. Well, when do we start laughing at the Maloof brothers? Where Sapp earned his initial fortune, the Sacramento Kings owners inherited theirs. Sapp -- who, in full disclosure, is a friend of mine -- claims a bad construction deal put him in his current predicament, and the Maloofs can say the same. They built the third tower to The Palms and saw the market crash soon after. Now, both of them are broke. Guess some owners should take some of those self-righteous lessons on money management athletes are offered when they lost their cash. As for why Sapp's situation is funny and the Maloofs' isn't? Sapp's problems will only affect people we don't know. The Maloofs would cost Tom Ziller his basketball team ... except they have no place to go. Nope, there's nothing funny about that.