This was one of the busiest weekends we’ve had in sports. I’ll do my best to recap it for you…
Celtics Move On: It wasn’t the blowout I expected (and hoped for I might add). But, the Boston Celtics were pushed to the brink by the Bulls and survived to open a second round series against the Orlando Magic.
I will give the Bulls a lot of credit. They got further than I thought they would. Maybe GM John Paxson had a real plan in place when he made his mid-season makeover in Chicago. But I also think the makeover will be wasted if they fail to bring back Ben Gordon next season.
Gordon is a pure scorer, and the Celtics had a lot of trouble containing him. As good as Derek Rose is. As good as John Salmons can be. With all the talent Chicago has compiled, they need Gordon. He provides instant offense for them. But, unlike Vinnie Johnson, the former Piston from the 80’s and 90’s that was nicknamed ‘The Microwave,’ Gordon doesn’t just impact the game in four or five minute stretches. Gordon can impact a game for much longer periods of time. The Bulls wouldn’t be the same without him. They need to find a way to keep him in Chicago.
As for the Celtics, well, Boston was my pick to win the Eastern Conference before the playoffs started. I’m stubborn and will stick with that pick. But I won’t like – Orlando scares me. I’m a big Dwight Howard guy and I think he could dominate this series.
Boston doesn’t seem the same without Kevin Garnett (and I still think he might come back if the Celtics make a deep run). Ray Allen has stepped up, but does Paul Pierce look like the same guy we saw dominate the Lakers last June? No he doesn’t – and he needs to be that guy with KG wearing suits on the bench. Rajon Rondo can be spectacular at times, but he cal look bad at times as well. Granted those bad games don’t come as often as they used to, but they are still a problem.
If the Celtics are going to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, they better figure out how to make Pierce play like it was June of last year. Allen needs to play big every game, and Rondo can’t have any of his off games.
I’m sticking with my Boston pick, but I;d be lying if I said I was confident.
Uh, Which Horse Won The Derby?: Raise your hand if you had Mine That Bird winning the Run for the Roses on Saturday. Okay, now put your hands down – you’re lying.
This 50-1 shot thrilled the crowd at Churchill downs by coming from behind to win convincingly. But you couldn’t really appreciate with jockey Calvin Borel did with this horse until you saw the overhead angle that ESPN gave you on Sportscenter. Look at how far back this horse was at one point. Look at the way he wound up winning. How he weaved in and out of traffic on a muddy track. It was an incredible effort.
Can this horse make a run at The Triple Crown? I’ll leave that to the experts at The Daily Racing Form. What I’ll tell you is this. After what happened a year ago with Eight Belles; after what happened to Barbaro a couple of years ago, I hope Mine That Bird can make a run at the Triple Crown. Horse racing needs a story like this. A good story. Something that doesn’t involve death, protesters, and declining television ratings.
Smarty Jones captivated this country when he went for the Triple Crown a few years ago. The horse was the talk of water coolers across the country. People made plans to watch The Belmont Stakes with the Triple Crown on the line. Casual fans who had never before paid attention to the sport of kings were now paying attention.
Will a Triple Crown winner elevate horse racing to the status it enjoyed in the 1970’s? Probably not, but at least we would have a positive story to talk about and not death or protesters. Horse racing is a sport in desperate need of some positive press.
Pac Man Chews Up and Spits Hatton Out: I predicted that Manny Pacquiao would knock Ricky Hatton out in five rounds last week. I was wrong. The Pac Man took care of Hatton in just two rounds. I’ll talk more about Pacquiao in a second.
Let’s deal with Hatton first. After this loss, it’s clear that the Englishman is nothing more than a brawler who can punch. Put him in with someone who has skill, and he looks like a guy who should be fighting on the undercard of a PPV, not the main event. He talked (okay, trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. did) about being a different fighter – one who had some boxing skills. But, when a guy like Pacquiao hits you, it’s tough to put the new skills you might have learned into practice. Hatton reverted to his basic instincts. And those instincts were no match for Pacquiao.
This is now the second time that Hatton has gotten a bite of the PPV apple. It might be the last. Oh, he’ll still be a guy that HBO showcases once in a while. But he’s not at the level they made him out to be.
As far as Pacquiao goes, there is only one way for him to go. And that’s to a meeting with Floyd Mayweather Jr., who is going to come back agaiunst Juan Manuel Marquez after a two year hiatus. If Mayweather shows that there isn’t any ring rust (and I think he’ll be just fine), then interest in a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight at either 140 or 147 pounds is going to run at a fever pitch.
It’s a fight I want to see. A fight that will be very tough to predict. A fight that will help boxing.
The experts thought that Mayweather’s fight with Oscar De La Hoya was the one that would save boxing from a death at the hands of MMA. It didn’t. This fight could. Two fighters at the top of their game. Two fighters who can claim they are the best – pound for pound – in the business.
It’s a fight that wouldn’t be just a fight. It would be an event. The way Muhammad Ali’s fights used to be. The way Mike Tyson’s fights used to be.
It’s a fight that needs to happen.