Hoping for a little churn at the top of the NBA and not the seemingly inevitable Warriors-Cavs rematch

 

Surely in the minority here, but I’m glad Dwyane Wade is with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the simple reason that it makes the 2018 NBA Finals worth watching.

It’s going to be Golden State vs Cleveland again next June. You know that. Every other team in the league knows that, too, though they will try to convince themselves otherwise as the new season kicks off this week.

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant defends Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

Does this make the 82-game regular season that stretches before us a crashing bore? Of course not. There will be all kinds of drama. Sensational and courageous playmaking. Comebacks and upsets and teams, like the Miami Heat last year, playing absolutely out of their heads for significant stretches.

In the end, though, it we wind up with Warriors vs. Cavs again, for what would be the fourth year in a row, it will be abundantly clear why fans get so worked up about the free-agency signing period each summer. It’s the only time when competitive conditions across the league are subject to real change.

Come to think of it, even that has become a bit of a wash in recent years, with all kinds of great talent going all kinds of interesting places but the Warriors negating that collective energy by taking Kevin Durant for themselves.

Which new talent grouping interests you most? My choice is Oklahoma City, with Billy Donovan trying to find a formula that works for Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Fascinating stuff, but again the Thunder aren’t expected to measure up to the Warriors in the Western Conference, so there they go again.

Trying not to be so cynical here, but a little churn at the top keeps the interest going stronger and longer for me.

Even with all the talk of Tom Brady and New England dominating the NFL, the last 10 Super Bowls have been won by eight teams. Two each by the Patriots and Giants, and the rest spread around among Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Green Bay, Baltimore, Seattle and Denver. That grows hope in more fan bases. It makes the regular season count for more than just playoff seeding.

As for baseball, here’s one that surprised me. There hasn’t been a World Series rematch since the Yankees beat the Dodgers in 1977 and again in 1978. And here we are looking at the Warriors and the Cavs for a possible fourth year in a row?

Thanks goodness it’s a league and an industry driven by stars because the teams alone seem to be fairly ordered.

As for the Boston Celtics winning eight NBA titles in a row from 1959-66 and a total of 11 in 13 years over the same stretch, we won’t go there, hopefully, ever again.

[What Miami will get from Syracuse, the team that lost to Middle Tennessee?]

[Flying high again with the ever-changing Central Florida Knights]

[Even greatest UM teams learned how tough it is to run the table]

 

 

It’s raining no-hitters at a pace to rival 1884, back when the ball probably wasn’t even round

In other news, Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs threw a no-hitter Sunday night.

Wait a minute. In other news?

That’s the way it feels any more when some pitchers snuffs the other side. Arrieta’s was the sixth no-hitter of the 2015 season. On top of that, it was the second time in the month of August that the Los Angeles Dodgers went without a hit in a game.

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 30: Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs salutes the crowd after pitching a no hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. The Cubs won 2-0. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***
LOS ANGELES, CA – AUGUST 30: Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs salutes the crowd after pitching a no hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 30, 2015. The Cubs won 2-0. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The easy answer always is to say that these things run in cycles. There were seven no-hitters, for instance, in 2012, tying the modern record for a single season, but none at all in 2000 and 2005.

All I know is that what used to be epic has become just another tidbit of info scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen. Part of that is a baseball problem.

The NFL gets headlines for roster cuts and injuries and such. Baseball has been devalued to the point that it takes more than a sensational individual achievement to get everyone’s attention. These days you need a funny video of a squirrel running around the infield and spooking a guy while he’s pitching a no-hitter. That and only that would kill.

Truth is, fans would rather watch baseballs flying out of the park. The long ball is irresistable. It’s the opposite of perfection, or near-perfection, as demonstrated by a pitcher who can’t be solved. Think chaos instead. Think NASCAR pileup instead of smooth sailing.

Do you remember how many no-hitters there were in 1998 Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa slugged it out for the home-run title and both of them wound up breaking Roger Maris’ record of 61? There was one no-hitter that season, by David Wells. If there had been 10 of them, or if there had been zero, the overall impact would have been the same in comparison. Negligible.

[Miami Heat training camp is coming soon and it sure doesn’t feel like 37-45 anymore]

[They’re all wimpy season openers but Gators’ assignment is the softest]

[With Pat Riley, the Heat are never far from raising a banner]

This isn’t even a steroids issue alone. Pitchers were juicing, too, when cheating was rampant.

Maybe for me it’s just a preference for seeing those bats be used as more than a stage prop when guys carry them to the plate. What am I thinking when the Little League World Series is on and some big kid is blowing the other team away? I’m thinking the same thing that I do when major leaguers are going down easy at the plate, inning after inning after 1-2-3 inning.

Hit the ball!

There’s most of a month left to the 2015 regular season, which means there probably will be a few more no-hitters. That puts the 1884 all-time record of eight no-hitters in play.

Those were not the good old days, and neither are these.

We’re all made of star stuff, but Clayton Kershaw more than others

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw holds up his All-Star jersey prior to a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Sunday, July 12, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw holds up his All-Star jersey on Sunday, July 12, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Clayton Kershaw is an All-Star, which is far out, and right this minute the ashes of his great uncle are floating through the stars, which is even farther.

Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997) discovered Pluto 85 years ago while staring into the Arizona night sky through a powerful Lowell Observatory telescope. In recognition of his achievement, the scientists who packed up the New Horizons space probe for the recently completed trip to whatever Pluto is (some say planet, some say pshaw) included a canister of Tombaugh’s ashes and an inscription identifying him as “father, astronomer, teacher, punster, and friend.”

Does any of this matter to Kershaw? It must. In a 2013 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night talk show, the Dodgers’ ace verified that Tombaugh is his great uncle and then blasted off a bit on the International Astronomical Union, the august body responsible for sending Pluto down to the Triple-A league of dwarf planets.

“I’m really glad you brought this up,” Kershaw told Kimmel, who may have been expecting a lighter answer to his question. “It’s something that’s been a huge problem in the Kershaw/Tombaugh family for a couple of years now.

This July 13, 2015 image provided by NASA shows Pluto, seen from the New Horizons spacecraft. The United States is now the only nation to visit every single planet in the solar system. Pluto was No. 9 in the lineup when New Horizons departed Cape Canaveral, Fla, on Jan. 19, 2006  (NASA via AP)
This July 13, 2015 image provided by NASA shows Pluto, seen from the New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA via AP)

“My great uncle discovered Pluto. I know that sounds like a joke when it comes out, but it’s true. Clyde Tombaugh, my great uncle, discovered Pluto, and they took it away from us. Said it’s a dwarf planet now. What, scientists just decide to just get in a room one day and say, ‘Oh, you know, we’re out with Pluto’?”

Is there nothing we can agree upon down here? I prefer to believe, for instance, that the moon is made of swiss cheese, nicely chilled. Any of you nerds over at the International Astronomical Union got a problem with that?

Anyway, I’m hoping that one day Kershaw can pitch for the Houston Astros. It seems to be in his blood.