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John Rooke - Thinking Out Loud

Saturday, July 06, 2013

 

Thinking out loud…and wondering if it’s possible to top these rim-rattling sports stories of the past couple of weeks around here…

• Welcoming in the New Year…on July 1st, a staggering 49 Division I college basketball programs changed conferences. Think about that for a moment, because if you follow college hoops, you’ll need a program to follow the changes once the season starts…

• One of those schools changing leagues is, of course, Creighton…as they move into the Big East. And Creighton should be a contender for the league title in its first season. 6-5 guard Grant Gibbs was granted a sixth year of eligibility this past week, and his return gives the Blue Jays real savvy on the perimeter, and four starters returning from last season. He led the Missouri Valley in assists each of the past two seasons. Oh, and the Jays will probably have the best walk-on in America in returning all-American Doug McDermott

• Why is McDermott a walk-on? Good question. But with Gibbs’ return, Creighton is one over the scholarship limit of 13 for this next year. So, Dad is paying his way. Dad also happens to be head coach Greg McDermott

• And changing leagues also means growing pains for a few schools, like Butler…whose fans are already feeling a financial pinch…

Stanford isn’t changing leagues, but they are changing their Twitter handle…and keeping a sense of humor at the same time. Who knew smart guys could also be funny?

• The off-season is usually time for players to make themselves over for the next year. You know, add muscle and shed fat, whatever. The biggest makeover on the Friar team, however, might not be from one of the players, however. Associate head coach Andre LaFleur, who was a recent inductee into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, has dropped about 40 pounds since the end of the season in March. Must be all of that recruiting he’s doing…

• In recent years, the Friars have had Marshon Brooks and Vincent Council attend summer “skills academy” camps, which are great for exposure and measuring up to other elite players. This year is no exception, as NC State transfer Tyler Harris attended the Kevin Durant Skills Academy during the last week of June in Washington, DC. The 6-9 Harris was one of 19 college and 30 high school wing players invited from around the country. You want a sleeper for next season? Harris might be your guy…

• Another bit of good news on the announcing front…Bill Raftery is jumping ship from ESPN to Fox Sports 1 to continue his relationship with Big East basketball. It’s always a bit sad when broadcasting teams – good broadcasting teams – are forced to break up, usually due to economics. Raftery, Sean McDonough and Jay Bilas were one of the rare instances where a three-man booth actually worked. They had chemistry, and that’s not easily applied to every announce group you come across. Does this finally mean we won’t have to hear those “send it in, Jerome!” calls from ESPN any longer???

ICYMI…it won’t take long for the new Big East and Fox Sports 1 to make a big bang. New Years’ Eve is scheduled to feature five league match-ups on national TV (including Seton Hall at Providence) launching the conference schedule…

Tweet of the Week I – from Grantland.com and ESPN’s @BillSimmons: "Radwanska! Bartoli!!!!! It's the Wimbledon Women's Finals on NBC!" Except, Boston Sports Guy, the finals are on YOUR network, ESPN. Doh!

Courtesy: si.com

From Doh! To Whoa…remember Dennis Rodman’s visit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un not too long ago? Rodman told Sports Illustrated this week that “if I don’t finish in the top three for the next Nobel Peace Prize, something’s seriously wrong.” Whoa

• Another short-sighted, stupid thing for RI legislators to do…passing legislation that alters Bryant University’s tax-exempt status. Good idea folks. Let’s put more of a burden on the backs of the students, who we hope – someday soon – will help bail us out of our current fiscal insanity in this state. Because if this legislation passes, that’s exactly what will happen. No college aged-kid in their right mind would make a choice to come here, nor should they…

• I don’t disagree with the premise that Bryant SHOULD give back to the Town of Smithfield, much like Providence College has said it will do (and has been doing) for the City of Providence. But let’s give them a chance, shall we, without holding a loaded gun to their heads…

• I do like the family leave bill that was OK’d by the RI House this week. But get ready for a slew of people asking for time off, especially those related to our lawmakers. They’ll be claiming sick leave in order to take care of their mentally imbalanced relatives…

• The Orlando Sentinel reported this week Tim Tebow tried to keep Aaron Hernandez from a serious bar fight back in 2007, when Hernandez was a 17-year-old freshman at Florida. Sure, he had punched a bouncer on the side of his head, causing an eardrum to burst, but what about the fact he was under-aged in the bar to begin with? Stupid is as stupid does

• Coincidence or a timely change? The Patriots have unveiled a new logo to replace the cursive, script “Patriots” that you’ve been used to seeing the past few years. No, the Flying Elvis head is still a part of it…it’s just that they’re swapping out the cursive lettering for a bolder, block letter look. And since they need to sell some merchandise in the wake of the unmitigated PR disaster of the past few weeks…there’s no better time for a make-over…

• If nothing else, getting Jonathan Papelbon back in a Boston uniform might be fun for more than his ability to pitch. He told the MLB Radio network this week that 22-year-old Cuban Yasiel Puig, who has hit better than .400 for the Dodgers since his arrival in early June, is “really kind of stupid, if you ask me.” Puig went 7-for-16 in a recent series against Pap’s Phillies, even though Papelbon didn’t get the chance to face him…

• By the way, Pap…Puig is just the second player since 1900 to get 44 hits in his first 100 career MLB at-bats. If his apparent talent isn’t worthy of a national showcase, I don’t know whose would be…

• Are the Red Sox really this good, or are we being treated to some midsummer madness around here? After the July 4th win over San Diego, Boston’s 53-34 record marks just the 2nd time in TEAM HISTORY the Sox have won 53 games through the holiday. The other year? 1978. Thanks, Bucky “Bleeping” Dent

Manny Ramirez has a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers, which proves two things. One, the Rangers desperately need a right-handed bat. Two, desperation makes people do crazy things…

Not for nuthin’…but when was the last time the Pittsburgh Pirates had the BEST record in baseball? When Sister Sledge was still belting out “We Are Family?”

• While the pitching has been outstanding in the Steel City, methinks it won’t last too much longer. The dog days of summer have a way of wearing arms out…and unless the Pirates’ bats can heat up with the temperatures, the young pitching staff should wilt like sunflower stalks in the heat. This week, team ERA 3.11, team batting average .241. You make the call

• The roster re-build in Boston might feature the second coming of Sam Bowie…if Danny Ainge is able to add Greg Oden. Remember him? Oden has had THREE microfracture knee surgeries since 2009, but is apparently ready to try the NBA again, and the Celtics could be on the short list of potential suitors…

• Dumbest franchise in the history of the NBA? Has to be Portland. Not only did they take Oden as the first pick of the ’07 Draft – just ahead of Kevin Durant – they also selected Bowie out of the University of Kentucky, who was plagued by numerous injuries in his career, just ahead of some guy named Jordan back in 1984. The first pick that year was Houston’s, and they took Hakeem Olajuwon

• And unless Ainge can pry Dirk Nowitzki from Dallas, I can’t see him trading Rajon Rondo for anyone, short of Durant, Kobe or LBJ. Rondo is the centerpiece to the re-build, and we’ve all known this for the past three seasons. Especially Doc Rivers – which is part of the reason why he’s left for the left coast. Just sayin’

• There are at least two sides to every story. On one hand, Brad Stevens to the Celtics is a real, out-of-the-box idea that Danny Ainge should get some credit for coming up with. Hey, if you’re making over your roster with recent college players, why not go and get someone who has had success coaching those players…and who can perhaps actually relate to those same players? In this regard, Stevens to the Celtics is intriguing enough to be worth a shot…if you’re leaving one era behind, and trying to start anew…

• The flip side to this story can be summed up in two words: Rick Pitino. Great college coach who could not get it done in Boston. This, of course, does not mean Stevens won’t be successful as a pro coach. He has been a great college coach, but certainly no one knows if he can make the leap to the NBA a successful one…

• And, angle number three…Stevens’ move is a blow for Butler in their first year of Big East competition, without a doubt. It also is a punch to the stomach for a new league looking to make a name for itself all over again. But Stevens’ success is the reason Butler is right where it is. We’ll soon see if he established a true program at Butler, or if he was a one (or two) hit wonder…

• Who’s happiest for Brad Stevens? One guy has to be Jason Kidd, who has taken criticism for becoming the Brooklyn Nets coach right from the ranks of playing…and will now have some of the attention of being the “new kid on the block” in the NBA deflected from him. Ooh. And Kidd is four years older than Stevens, too…

• But let’s not let the age thing get in the way of any good or bad arguments here. For those unaware, the Celtics’ organization has long had a history of starting coaches out at young ages - Dave Cowens was 30 in 1978 when he first became coach; Bill Russell (32 in 1966), Red Auerbach (33 in 1950) and Tommy Heinsohn (35 in 1969) were also ALL younger than Stevens when they first roamed the sideline as a head coach…

Tweet of the Week II – from @TheFakeESPN: “After signing Brad Stevens, the Boston Celtics are favorites to win the 2014 NCAA Championship.”

Kevin Garnett (yahoo.com)

• Wanna feel old(er)? Brad Stevens and Kevin Garnett were born in the same year…

• One more thought on Stevens…some of the college jobs he was reported to have turned down over the past few years include UCLA, NC State, Miami, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Missouri and Illinois. And all of these teams may be better than the Celtics next year…

• The job of sideline reporter on television is a thankless one. Sometimes, it is also a needless one. But in this particular case, it is also a hazardous one

• I think I understand why Bruins’ GM Peter Chiarelli decided to give up on Tyler Seguin, but nevertheless I’m still disappointed he’s gone to Dallas. Sure, the recent playoff run was disappointing from an offensive standpoint, but I simply have a problem with giving up on 21-year-old kids of whom too much is expected. Rich Peverley is also a good center, handles face-offs well and scored 42 points in 57 games two years ago. The Bruins were very close, yes, and appear to need only minor tweaking to contend again. But sometimes changing for the sake of change isn’t the best road to travel…

• Has anyone ever asked Joey Chestnut if he “casually” eats hot dogs? I mean, 69 in 10 minutes on the 4th of July to break his own record is certainly impressive. Even if it makes me a little queasy. But what do you think he does when neighbors decide to fire up the grill and say “hey Joey, how about a hot dog or two?  Or 70?”

• My Top 5 names for fireworks: Bomb Voyage, Stimulus Package, the Nukes of Hazard, Wake the Neighbors and Chemical Romance. Special consideration given to “Dragon Farts” and “Run Like Hell…”

• My buddy Statbeast sez Mrs. Statbeast recently poured cold water all over his fireworks. He got a note from his doctor that said “My diagnosis is that you must have daily sex.” She pointed out, however, that it really said “My diagnosis is that you must have dyslexia...”

• I received a Facebook message from an old friend this week, someone I haven’t had much contact with over the years since high school. But he felt compelled to send a note, because he wanted to check in on ME. Seeing as we’ve had so much national, headline-grabbing news around the country originate from New England lately, he wanted to know how I was doing. I’m fine, better than most I suppose. So for that, I’m fortunate. But I would like someone to show me the way to the exit of this seemingly never-ending three-ring circus we’re enduring…

• From the mailbag this week – Edward in Johnston, RI writes via Facebook: “Nadal's loss at Wimbledon was huge, but Federer's and Sharapova's early exit just as big. What's up (with) the American men. Not one made it to the round of 32. And a rumor of Serena vs. #2 Andy Murray in a Battle of the Sexes is intriguing.” Edward: Actually, I LOVE the idea of Serena Williams against Murray – or any male that will take her on. If you’ll recall, my good friend, Billie Jean King’s epic “Battle of the Sexes” 40 summers ago, in 1973, against male chauvinist extraordinaire Bobby Riggs? Billie Jean whupped him good at the Astrodome in Houston, on national TV, no less. And the match helped send tennis into the stratosphere popularity-wise in the ’70’s and ‘80’s. The sport could use that again…

• Interested in having your questions on local RI sports (including the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions and comments to jrooke@golocalprov.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

• Don’t forget to join us for GoLocal Sports on 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am! Call in (401) 737-1287, or text us at 37937…and send email to the show - golocal@weei.com .

• The recently released “Rhode Island Radio” from Arcadia Publishing is available for sale, and the book tells the story of the 91-year history of radio in our state through photographs, clippings and memories from many of the personalities who have graced our airwaves. If you’re in search of the gift that says “Rhode Island,” you’ve found it. Or, find it in local bookstores and online right here…  

 

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