Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lists, lists, lists

Five things I’m looking forward to during some extended time off from the Eagle starting next week

5. Playing some golf.

4. Watching Game of Thrones from Season 1.

3. Watching many, many St. Louis Cardinals games.

2. Taking a driving trip with my wife.

1. Watching kids play baseball in League 42

10 favorite Woody Allen movies

10. Manhattan Murder Mystery

9. Manhattan

8. The Purple Rose of Cairo

7. Match Point

6. Crimes and Misdemeanors

5. Midnight in Paris

4. Zelig

Blue Jasmine is my all-time favorite Woody Allen movie.

Blue Jasmine is my all-time favorite Woody Allen movie.

3. Hannah and Her Sisters

2. Annie Hall

1. Blue Jasmine

Five topics I’ve considered for a book

5. Fiction about a professional sports serial killer (I have a dark side).

4. Burial places for Major League Baseball icons. My concept is more interesting than the brief description.

3. Stories about League 42, which I’ll be doing on my League 42 blog starting next week at league42.org.

2. Spending my life in newspapers and mostly at one newspaper.

1. My childhood friends and how we’ve remained in contact for so many years.

10 great childhood memories

10. Going to a North-Derby high school basketball game in Derby when I was 5. The game was televised on Channel 10 and it was played on a Saturday afternoon. Riney Lochmann was a star at North at the time and Derby was led by Stan Pulliam and the Gaskin brothers.

9. Riding my fancy bicycle with its high handlebars up and down North Baltimore Street while popping wheelies.

8. My mother’s cooking.

7. Spending so much time with my dad at games.

6. Playing two-on-two basketball with one of those aforementioned life-long friends, Doug Baber. In our memories, we were unbeaten as a two-on-two powerhouse.

5. Hanging out with my older friend, Steve Woolson, who lived across the street and taught me a lot of things.

4. Neighborhood baseball games at Pleasantview Elementary. We just showed up around noon and there were always plenty of guys to play a pick-up game that lasted for a couple of hours. And it happened almost every day during the summer.

3. Playing basketball by myself in my backyard. I pretended I was the Wichita State team, or a pro team. But mostly, I was the Shockers. And I spent hours upon hours playing games while doing my own broadcast of the game.

2. Playing army with my friends in the neighborhood. It was intense and exciting and we discovered so many awesome hiding places.

1. The music of my youth. I had a small turntable and hundreds of records and I could spend hours listening and singing along and memorizing words to songs.

Five television shows I didn’t miss as a kid

5. The Lucy Show

4. Bonanza

3. Gunsmoke

2. All in the Family

1. The Andy Griffith Show

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Marshall to Tennessee? Forget about it

Gregg Marshall will not coach basketball at Wichita State forever. That, I guarantee.

And I come almost as close to guaranteeing that the Tennessee job, which came open today when Cuonzo Martin took the head-coaching job at California, will not entice Marshall to leave WSU.

Not hard to believe Tennessee would have interest in hiring Gregg Marshall now that Cuonzo Martin has left for Tennessee. But it is hard to believe the interest would be mutual.

Not hard to believe Tennessee would have interest in hiring Gregg Marshall now that Cuonzo Martin has left for California. But it is hard to believe the interest would be mutual.

The Vols would be silly if they don’t kick Marshall’s tires, so to speak. And when they do, they’ll notice that they’re full of air with plenty of tread.

I’m not sure the tire analogy works, but I know Marshall is happy at Wichita State, where he made close to $2 million this season, almost $700,000 more than Martin made at Tennessee.

Would you leave a team that returns Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter to go to Knoxville, where there are a lot of unknowns and a shaky administration that seemed to never embrace Martin?

Marshall has made the coaching job at Wichita State a great one. And his bosses have wisely upped the ante to keep him. He’s rewarded in a way no Shocker coach could have ever dreamed of previously. Back-to-back seasons that produced the team’s first Final Four appearance in 48 years and the best unbeaten regular-season run in the history of college basketball have led to numerous Coach of the Year awards for Marshall.

It’s hard to imagine he could do better at more than a handful of schools in the country. And Tennessee isn’t one of them.

Marshall might have taken a look at the Vols two or three years ago. I can’t imagine he would now. He and Martin, who left Missouri State to go to Tennessee three years ago, became friends when they coached against one another in the Missouri Valley Conference. You can bet Marshall noticed how the Tennessee administration or fan base never seemed to warm to Martin.

We were talking in the office a little bit ago about just how many college basketball jobs would appeal to Marshall. It’s an interesting question and it’s a list that has diminished in the past couple of years.

If Tennessee, which has an arena that seats close to 22,000 people, doesn’t appeal to Marshall, then what school would?

Let’s take the iconic programs like Indiana, Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and UCLA off the table. Those jobs would appeal to almost every coach, though Marshall did fend off overtures from UCLA during the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Are there any other jobs out there that might entice Marshall?

I think Missouri would be a possibility. That’s always been a gold mine, in my opinion. It’s a school with tremendous resources that has never produced to the level of those resources. And it’s a fan base that would embrace Marshall and vice versa.

But Missouri has a coach – at least for now. Frank Haith, though, will be on a definite hot seat next season and if the Tigers don’t win, and win big, he could be in trouble.

That’s one of the few jobs out there I can think of that potentially could interest Marshall, who could be the second coming of Norm Stewart in Columbia. He has that kind of personalty, that kind of charisma.

For now, though, Marshall isn’t going anywhere and the Shockers are set up for another tremendous season in 2014-15.

 

Picking on the Royals

As you know, I like to find fault with the Kansas City Royals. It’s a hobby and because the Royals provide so much ammunition, I can’t see myself giving it up soon.

There’s just so much.

Today, I’m not going to rap on the Royals for their 4-7 start. I’m not going to mention their .239 team

Emilio Bonifacio is off to a quick start with the Chicago Cubs this season.

Emilio Bonifacio is off to a quick start with the Chicago Cubs this season.

batting average or the fact that only one player, Alex Gordon, has driven in more than four runs.

I’m not even going to discuss the team’s abysmal power so far – just one home run. I’m not going to point out that Mike Moustakas, Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer – so important to the team’s offensive success – have combined for no homers, seven RBIs and are batting well below .200 as a group.

Nope, I’m not going to mention any of that.

Instead, I’m going to focus on three players: current Royals left-hander Bruce Chen and former Royals utility player Emilio Bonifacio (now with the Chicago Cubs) and left-handed pitcher Will Smith (currently with the Milwaukee Brewers).

And what I’m about to point out is another example of the kind of mismanagement that has plagued the Royals for many years. And it’s a reason why I’m suspect when it comes to Kansas City mounting a challenge in the American League Central this season.

Last season, on Aug. 14, the Royals picked up utility player Emilio Bonifacio from the Toronto Blue Jays for cash.

Bonifacio was in the midst of an off season in Toronto after a couple of productive seasons with the Marlins, one of which (2012) was cut short because of an injury.

Bonifacio is a speedy player and a decent defender. He isn’t a bad hitter, either, and he gave the Royals exactly what they were looking for. In 42 games with KC, he batted .285 and stole 16 bases. He looked like he might even be more than just a short-term answer at second base.

But on Feb. 10 of this year, the Royals placed Bonifacio on waivers for the purpose of giving him an unconditional release. That was just nine days after the Royals and Bonifacio had agreed on a one-year, $3.5 million deal to avoid arbitration.

But losing that contract allowed the Royals to bring back the veteran Chen for $3 million. Because when you think your team might be in the hunt for its first postseason in 29 years, there’s nothing like pinching pennies.

Anyway, the Royals went out and signed Omar Infante, who previously had played for Detroit, to a four-year, $30.25 million contract, even though, at 32, Infante is four years older than Bonifacio.

OK, so the Royals have Chen and Infante but don’t have Bonifacio, who signed with the Chicago Cubs.

The Royals also had Smith, a young left-hander with promise as a starter, long reliever, left-handed specialist or late-inning reliever. In other words, Smith has a versatile bullpen arm.

In 33.1 innings with Kansas City last season, Smith allowed only 24 hits and seven walks while striking out 43.

But Smith was the bait the Royals used in a trade for Milwaukee right fielder Nori Aoki, who is in the final year of a three-year deal that pays him about $1.6 million per season.

Smith, who makes the big-league minimum of $502,000, has appeared in seven games for the Brewers so far this season and hasn’t given up a run. He’s struck out nine in 6.1 innings and has helped solidify Milwaukee’s bullpen.

My point here is that the Royals are spending a lot more to have Chen, Infante and Aoki on their roster than they would have spent by having Bonifacio and Smith.

Oh, by the way, Bonifacio is off to a torrid start with the Cubs, batting .392 with seven stolen bases.

With an apparent choice of Bonifacio or Chen, the Royals took the veteran pitcher. Chen has undoubtedly given Kansas City some good productive, but he’s nothing more than a back-of-the-rotation starter and long man out of the bullpen.

Bonifacio has a history of top-of-the-order production and it’s not like the Royals had to break the bank to keep him. He’s not going to continue to hit .392, but he could hit .290 and steal 40 bases.

And Smith is a better version of Chen. He’s much younger, he throws a lot harder and he has a lot more promise. The Royals picked him up in 2010 from the Angels for Sean O’Sullivan and Alberto Callaspo. He’s probably going to have a nice career.

The point is: I don’t understand what the Royals are thinking. Infante is fine, but is he worth four years and more than $30 million. And does Aoki really plug the hole at the top of the order?

To review:

The Royals released Bonifacio so they could fit Chen into the budget.

They traded Smith, who is a better version of Chen and makes one-sixth of what Chen makes.

They spent big to bring in Infante, who may or may not be more productive than Bonifacio.

And in the Smith trade they landed Aoki to bat leadoff, where Bonifacio has excelled in the past.

In so doing, they spent $34.6 million when they could have retained Bonifacio and Smith for $4 million.

That’s the Royals for you.

 

 

 

 

Friday musings

* I still believe Allen Craig and Jhonny Peralta will hit. They will hit, right? They’re not washed up. They can still sting the baseball. I believe this with all my heart.

* It’s hard seeing guys start the season in slumps. I know slumps are a part of the game, but to start the season in a 2-for-30 funk or something similar is brutal.

* I’m one of the coaches for a T-Ball team in League 42. We’re named the Panthers because I went to Derby High School and the co-coach, Randy Smith, went to Great Bend. And the kids were good with the name. We’ve had two practices now and they have been eventful.

* These kids haven’t even held a bat yet. We’ve been working on the proper throwing motion, how to catch grounders and which base is which. Last night, I think we made tremendous progress in teaching our 15 five- and six-year olds the locations of home plate, first base, second base and third base. Shortstop is a little iffy.

* One of our parents reached out to the coach of her son’s team today to explain that she and her family had just become homeless. We have tried to prepare for situations like this, but it’s eye-opening when it actually happens. She wrote in her message to the coach that she wants her two sons to still be on their teams in League 42 because “they love baseball.” We’ll do everything we can to make sure her sons continue to play.

* We have an unbelievable group of people involved in League 42. And our coaches are top notch. Many have coached at Westurban and at other high levels of youth baseball. Yet they want to be with these kids, 98 percent of whom are beginners, because they realize the importance of the mission. One of our coaches is giving up some time with his son’s traveling team to be involved with his League 42 team.

* I’m taking the plunge into the HBO series Game of Thrones. I’m starting at the beginning, thanks to Netflix. I’ve binge-watched two series in my life – Deadwood and The Wire. Will Game of Thrones be the third?

* I’m also getting back into Veep after not watching it much during its last season. And I tried the debut of Silicon Valley. It’s too early to tell on that one.

* I need to read more. I’ve been telling myself that for years, to no avail. Telling myself that I need to read more has absolutely no effect on me reading more.

* Did I use “effect” correctly there? Or should it have been “affect?” Does someone have an easy way to explain when to use one vs. when to use the other? I have not been able to get affect/effect figured out and I’ll be 60 years old soon. It’s embarrassing.

* I sure hope 24 is as good as it was during its first run. It’ll be a terrible thing if it isn’t. I’m looking forward to the debut of the series in early May.

* I have a column coming out on Korleone Young this weekend at Kansas.com and in The Eagle. I’ve had a couple of long conversations with Young, the former East High basketball star and can’t miss prospect who missed. He’s a really interesting guy. And a smart guy. I just hope he’s a real guy. And by that, I hope he follows through on everything he’s told me and others. Young has had an interesting life and insists that he’s intent on helping kids avoid some of the mistakes and pratfalls that he’s made.

* I’m going to write about Young every year for a while. One reason is because he’s a fascinating person with an interesting story. And another is because I want him to succeed in this second act of his life. I think he has a lot to offer this community and especially young and impressionable kids from the inner-city. He says he wants to be held accountable. He wants to prove himself. I’m hoping he does.

* I’m looking forward to spending some time on the patio at The Shamrock later today. It’ll be soothing.

* I sense a big change coming in college athletics soon. I’m not exactly sure what form it will take, but the amateurism that college sports used to espouse is dead as a door nail. Hypocrisy is running rampant. The NCAA’s grasp is loosening. Something big is about to happen.

* Dorial Green-Beckham has been dismissed from the Missouri football team. My respect for Gary Pinkel just grew.

* I have six phone books piled up in my office. Do people use phone books anymore? Wait, I just used one last week to contact a guy I know in town. His number was in the book. He answered his home phone. I felt like I was back in 1967.

* I miss 1967, by the way. And 1964.

* Yes, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in both of those years. Good catch. But I miss those years for other reasons, too.

* I’m going to Salina and the Stiefel Theater on July 11 to see Three Dog Night. Their lead guys, Cory Wells and Danny Hutton, are in their early-70s. I’ve been a fan of the group since I was in the eighth grade. I’m only sorry original drummer Floyd Sneed is no longer with the band.

* I first saw Three Dog Night at what is now Koch Arena when I was in the ninth grade. I’m not sure how I got there, since I was too young to drive. Surely my parents didn’t take me because that would have just been pathetic. And I would have remembered that, surely. No, I’m sure I was there with friends.

* That might have been my first concert.

* I wish I had a running tally of every day in my life. A diary, I guess. Although I associate diaries with sappiness, for some reason. I would just like to be able to go back through my life and see what I did every day. I’ve seen stories about people who have photographic memories and can remembers things like that. I envy them.

* What did I do on Feb. 17, 1983? Heck if I know. But I had to do something.

* OK, enough of this nonsense. Have a great weekend, as always. Feel free to drop by McAdams Park this spring for some League 42 baseball. We’ll be playing on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays with practices all day Saturday. It’s a blast.

 

Is Bill Self having fun?

Bill Self, I’ve noticed over the years, is a fun guy. He’s usually smiling and quick with a funny remark.

I imagine making close to $4 million a year to coach basketball at Kansas is good for his overall mood, too.

Kansas freshman Joel Embiid is off to the NBA after one season cut short.

Kansas freshman Joel Embiid is off to the NBA after one season cut short.

But I wonder if Self is enjoying his job as much as he should. I don’t know if he is or not. He well could be. But based on the happenings of the past couple of weeks, I do wonder.

First off, Self and KU have won 10 consecutive Big 12 championships. The Jayhawks and Self won the 2008 national championship. Kansas remains as one of the four or five best college basketball programs in the country. Self can pick the players he wants to recruit.

Life is good.

Or is it?

Kansas had two of the best freshmen in the country this season – Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. Both are moving on to the NBA; Embiid made his intentions known Wednesday. Neither decision is a surprise and Self knew when he was recruiting them that this was a possibility.

Still, what does Self and KU have to show for one season of Wiggins and Embiid? A Big 12 championship, yes. Which is a great accomplishment. But the third-round exit from the NCAA Tournament after a loss to Stanford, a game in which Embiid did not play because of a back injury and Wiggins performed poorly, was a disappointing end to the season.

And now arguably the two best Jayhawks are moving on to most likely play for rebuilding teams in the NBA. They’ll be cashing big checks but probably not winning many games – at least for a while.

Meanwhile, Self has another outstanding recruiting class coming in, one that could get much better soon.

Already signed are 6-foot-9 power forward Cliff Alexander, from Chicago. He’s regarded as the top high school power forward in the country and it’s likely he’ll be a one-and-done Jayhawk.

Myles Turner, a 7-foot center from the Houston suburb of Bedford, Texas, is the only uncommitted 2014 McDonald’s All-American. He reportedly is still considering six schools, though Kansas and Texas appear to be frontrunners. And with Embiid’s decision to depart early, the Jayhawks have a spot for a starting center. Turner, too, is regarded as a likely short-timer wherever he plays college basketball.

KU’s third recruit is small forward Kelly Oubre, from Richmond, Texas, a Dallas suburb. He’s ranked by ESPN as the fourth-best high school small forward in the country.

Kansas, obviously, recruits at a stratospheric level. But when the Jayhawks get ousted early in the NCAA Tournament and those young stars either don’t play at all or don’t play well, the disappointment is profound.

I think there should be a rule in place that college basketball players have to spend two years in school before going to the NBA. It would improve the credibility of the college game and also help the NBA.

The argument is that players like Wiggins and Embiid have marketable skills now. They can get paid now. Why hold them back?

It’s a valid argument. I get it. I just don’t think one-and-done college players are good for the sport.

Remember the excitement about the KU recruiting class going into the 2013-14 season? It was palpable. But the two cornerstone recruits are leaving now, even though there is much unfinished business.

The NBA beckons, though, with all of its temptations. I wonder if those temptations will ever entice Self?

 

 

Lists, lists, lists

10 favorite Robert DeNiro movies

10. Mean Streets

9. The King of Comedy

8. Awakenings

7. Falling in Love

6. Raging Bull

5. The Deer Hunter

4. Cape Fear

3. The Godfather Part II

2. Goodfellas

1. Taxi Driver

Top 10 Tom Petty (and the Heartbreakers, when applicable) songs

10. The Waiting

9. Love Is a Long Road

8. Jammin’ Me

7. Honey Bee

6. Free Fallin’

5. Running Down a Dream

4. Into the Great Wide Open

3. Refugee

2. Mary Jane’s Last Dance

1. You Wreck Me

What some of my favorite musicians from the 1970s are worth

(According to celebritynetworth.com)

Bruce Springsteen, $250 million

Don Henley, $200 million

Steven Tyler, $130 million

Stevie Nicks, $75 million

Tom Petty, $75 million

Neil Young, $65 million

Bob Seger, $45 million

Steve Miller, $40 million

David Crosby, $40 million

Eddie Money, $20 million

Stephen Stills, $20 million

Jackson Browne, $12 million

Favorite days of the week (in order)

Friday

Saturday

Thursday

Wednesday

Sunday

Tuesday

Monday

Five favorite high school memories

5. Graduating, I think. I’m almost 100 percent sure I graduated, although I have no proof.

4. Driving around Derby looking for something to do and almost always failing in that endeavor.

3. Playing high school baseball.

2. Parties. Way, way too many parties.

1. Not going to prom or homecoming. And it wasn’t because I couldn’t find a date, despite what you might hear.

 

 

The rampant hypocrisy in college athletics

Did you catch Shabazz Napier’s interview after he led Connecticut to college basketball’s national championship with a 60-54 win over Kentucky on Monday night.

Napier ripped into the NCAA for its one-year ban that kept UConn out of the 2013 NCAA Tournament

Connecticut senior point guard Shabazz Napier.

Connecticut senior point guard Shabazz Napier.

because the Huskies didn’t meet the NCAA’s academic standards.

Whenever the NCAA announces that it’s tightening the standards for classroom performance, the immediate reaction is to applaud. But after about two claps, the brain kicks in. And most rational people begin to recognize that the NCAA often contradicts itself when it addresses academics.

The NCAA Tournament is the prime example. Athletes are kept away from their campuses in some cases for the better part of three weeks in pursuit of a championship. America’s sports fans love it and pay millions upon millions of dollars in support.

Television ratings soar. The mood of the American people heightens, especially during that opening weekend of the tournament.

All the while, though, the student athletes, as the NCAA so proudly and mistakenly calls players, are thrust into a spotlight that has little or nothing to do with academics. Or with being a student.

The NCAA milks these players for every dime, yet has the audacity to ban a team from its very own money-making machine because the academics aren’t up to snuff.

This is why I prefer professional sports. I know what I’m getting. The players are being paid, no ifs, ands or buts. There’s no cheating because there’s no system to cheat.

We have college student athletes at Northwestern who are threatening to unionize. And as silly as that seems out of hand, it’s starting to make more and more sense to me.

Who watches out for these people? Is it the universities? The college presidents? The athletic directors? The coaches? The academic advisers? The NCAA?

Or are these student athletes forced to look out for themselves? They give and give and give and for what? The fame and notoriety of being a college athlete? The thrill of competition? Is that always enough?

I feel my attitude on all of this evolving. I also feel change coming. Something tells me college athletics are going to look a lot different, and soon.

The blatant pursuit of money at the cost of all else is turning me off.

Holding Final Fours in places like AT&T Stadium is an example. These teams play in their college arenas all season long and when it matters most they’re put inside these massive stadiums where good seats are impossible to find and for what? Money, that’s what? Gobs and gobs of green.

The players have a great time. They’re treated like kings. Except they’re not paid and they have to miss exorbitant amounts of classroom time.

Oh, and about that classroom time.

Do you think Andrew Wiggins is still going to class at Kansas? Or any of the other one-and-done players in college basketball? I’m curious. This isn’t an accusation; I really would like to know.

College athletics had a pure intent, I believe. But money has spoken. And as usual when money speaks, good intentions slowly but surely disappear into something more sinister.

Many, perhaps even most, Americans don’t care about any of that. They just want to see their team, their school, do well.

A growing number of people, though, are speaking out. The hypocrisy of college athletics is thick now, impossible to ignore. It’s everywhere and it has to stop.

Or maybe it doesn’t. Unfortunately, maybe it doesn’t.

 

 

The NBA season is almost here

I pay very little attention to the NBA regular season, even though I tell myself that every year is going to be different.

There’s just not enough time to devote to the 82-game season that basically tells us nothing. Half of the teams in the league get into the playoffs, which probably isn’t enough in the West and is way too many in the East.

But I do get into the NBA playoffs, which can’t get here soon enough. For those of you who are keeping

Who is this man? It's first-year Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, of course. He's a former Lakers assistant.

Who is this man? It’s first-year Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, of course. He’s a former Lakers assistant.

track, the regular season ends on April 16. It started back in late October, I believe. Wow, that’s a long season.

So today, in an effort to prepare myself for the playoffs, I spent a couple of hours studying up on the NBA. I’m guessing I watched three games this season from start to finish. And I call myself a sports fan?

Well, my excuse is college basketball. And having a life. But mostly college basketball, which I see a lot of, obviously. It leaves little time for the pro game.

Anyway, here’s some of what I gleaned from today’s study:

* I had never heard of seven current coaches – Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer, Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, Detroit’s John Loyer, Philadelphia’s Brett Brown, Toronto’s Dwane Casey, Memphis’ David Joerger and Sacramento’s Mike Malone. OK, I had heard of Brown, but only because of the 76ers’ horrible losing streak this season. So I fudged a little there. But I have no idea who he is, what he’s done or why he’s coaching in the NBA.

* I’m glad to see Jeff Hornacek working out as the first-year coach of the Phoenix Suns. I like Hornacek, an Iowa State guy like Fred Hoiberg, who I suspect will also be coaching in the NBA soon.

* Speaking of the Suns, I’m impressed by their 46-31 record and intrigued to watch their backcourt of Goren Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Gerald Green in the playoffs. If the Suns make the playoffs, that is. They’re currently just a game ahead of Memphis for the eighth and final spot. I hope they hang on.

* Who are the five best coaches in the NBA? Again, I’m not expert. I don’t watch enough regular-season games to be an expert. But if I had to pick, I’d go in this order: 5) Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls; 4) Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder; 3) Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers; 2) Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat; 1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs. I suspect some of the “NBA guys” are questioning Spoelstra being second. Doesn’t two straight championships and three straight trips to the NBA Finals count for something? He wins and he’s created good harmony on that Heat team.

* There are a lot of good teams in the West, but don’t discount the Clippers. Doc Rivers has made a huge difference in LA, as you knew he would. He’s gotten a lot out of center DeAndre Jordan (12.2 ppg, 12.9 rpg) and Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick look to be improved players. This is one of the few teams I’ve seen play a fair amount in bits and pieces this season. They’re always impressive when I’m tuned in.

* Hey, the Toronto Raptors have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, tied with the Bulls. I haven’t seen a second of the Raptors this season and didn’t know much about their roster. On further inspection, though, I’m eager to see DeMar DeRozan, the ninth-leading scorer in the league, perform in the playoffs. DeRozan has a decent supporting cast, too, led by point guard Kyle Lowry (17.4 ppg) and Jonas Valanciunas (11 ppg, 8.6 rpg). How long has it been since the Raptors have been relevant? They might be now.

* New Orleans was playing much better until a recent five-game losing streak. But it’s nice to see 6-foot-10 Anthony Davis come into his own as a second-year player. Davis is averaging 20.8 points and 10 rebounds and leads the NBA with 2.82 blocks per game. The Hornets could be trouble next season.

* LeBron James is having a highly-unselfish season. His scoring (26.8 ppg) is slightly down from his 27.5 career average. Yet he is having easily his best shooting year, making 56.8 percent of his shots, compared to 49.6 for his career. He has also improved on his three-point shooting – 37.6 percent this season compared to 34 percent for his career. Is it safe to assume the Heat will win a third straight championship? Or can San Antonio, OKC or the Clippers prevail? I’ll take Miami.

* Dwight Howard is working out well in Houston. The Rockets will be a fascinating team in the playoffs, too. Howard fits in perfectly, averaging 18.5 points and 12.3 rebounds and he seems content to be the No. 2 guy on the team, deferring to James Harden.

* What has happened to the Milwaukee Bucks? They’re 14-63. Worse, even, that Philadelphia.

* For the most part, I agree with analyst Charles Barkley, who has said repeatedly this season that the NBA is the worst it’s ever been. Too many young, unpolished, unrefined players. It’s symptomatic of the one-and-done age of college.

* See you next week for the start of the playoffs. I’ll try to lock in. That’s my plan, at least.

 

Friday musings

* I upgraded my DirecTV service this week and got one of those Genie DVRs which allows us to record five shows at a time. Five shows at a time. I barely watch five shows a week. But apparently I just had to have this new DVR. My television is also now hooked up to the Internet, which is cool. Because the Internet now runs all of our lives. Morning, noon and night. Who doesn’t love the Internet?

* The Royals open at home today, in fact here in just about an hour, after two walk-off losses in Detroit. I suggested on radio last night changing that term from walk-off to Yost-off, in honor of Royals manager Ned Yost. Or in dishonor. What do you think?

* Not sure how the Cardinals won two out of three in Cincinnati, especially after scoring one run in the first two games. But I’ll take it. Should be an interesting series in Pittsburgh over the weekend.

* Baseball racks my nerves, just so you know.

* I feel like I should be out in the family room, messing around with that new Genie DVR.

* I’m trying to decide what kind of trip I want to take with my wife this summer, with full understanding that she’ll have the final say. Perhaps even the only so. But I do want to make a suggestion and I think it’s going to be that we drive across the state of Montana and stop in every redneck bar we see. Something tells me she won’t mind the driving part, but the stopping part, the redneck part and the bar part might give her pause. There’s something about Montana that fascinates me. Any Montanans out there who want to provide some tips on what to do up there? All suggestions are welcome.

* I’d like to go through Yellowstone on the way home.

* I like Kentucky to beat Florida for college basketball’s national championship. Or Florida to beat Kentucky. I just know I want to see those teams meet for a fourth time Monday night.

* I’m looking forward to Wrestlemania 30 this weekend. We have people over, including my son, and my wife loves having people over. If you just had me over all the time, wouldn’t you love having other people over, too? I know I would. I wish I wasn’t over as much as I am, but I don’t really have anywhere else to go. Anyway, we enjoy the wrestling pay-per-views.

* I used to worry about letting people know I enjoyed professional wrestling for fear that they would think I was not as bright as certain I come across as being. But somewhere along the way, I stopped worrying about that. I don’t think pro wrestling is real or anything like that. I think it’s entertainment. And as entertainment, it passes the muster. Although I don’t really know what muster is. I just looked it up, though, and it has something to do with the military.

* Back to wrestling. I’m looking forward to the Undertaker putting his Wrestlemania unbeaten streak on the line against Brock Lesnar. ‘Taker, as I call him, has won 21 in a row.

* I have never owned a motorcycle or a pickup truck. What does that say about me? Because it seems like everyone drives a truck or rides a cycle. I’m feeling a little left out. But I’m too old now for a motorcycle. And I don’t really need a truck that I know of. Maybe I do and just don’t know it. I know it’s great to haul things in a pickup. But when I need to haul things, I just borrow one of my friends’ trucks. So that means that if I were to get a truck, I’d have to loan it out a lot. No thanks.

* I’ve had this jar of peppermint candy sitting on my desk down here for about a year. I’ve never opened it because it’s a little bit out of reach and I’d have to struggle a little bit to get to it. I guess I don’t like peppermint candy enough to struggle. Now if that was a box of Milk Duds I’d have thrown an arm out of socket to get to it.

* I’ll still watch the Masters without Tiger Woods. Golf doesn’t begin and end with Tiger. Yes, it would be more interesting if he was in the field. But he’s not. And golf will survive. It would be nice, though, for someone to step up as a dominant player. It looked like Rory McIlroy would be that guy, but he’s been too inconsistent. Golf, like all sports, does need superstars. Different players winning from week to week can’t be good for viewership.

* Wichita State first baseman Casey Gillaspie looks like a can’t miss major league prospect to me. I saw him hit three bullets – one for a long home run and the other two for up-the-middle singles – against Cal State Fullerton last Saturday. The guy can really hit.

* I like this group of “American Idol” singers. I know “The Voice” is really popular right now and that’s fine. I’m sure there are good singers and the format of the show works. And there’s a girl from Maize on the show this year. But AI is still my favorite. And here’s my ranking of the eight singers left, from 1-8 with 1 being my favorite. But I’ll start with No. 8 to build suspense. Can you feel the suspense being built? OK, here goes: 8 – C.J. Harris; 7 – Malaya Watson; 6 – Dexter Roberts; 5 – Sam Woolf; 4 – Jena Irene; 3 – Caleb Johnson; 2 – Jessica Meuse; 1. Alex Preston.

* Thanks everyone. As always, have a great weekend. League 42 practices start this weekend, so that’s really exciting for me. We have some big festivities in the planning stages for the week of April 28, which is when our games will start at McAdams Park. I hope you’ll come by.

 

Lists, lists, lists

Hey, everybody. I’m watching the Royals-Detroit game out of the corner of my eye. Why do these home broadcasters feel such a need to sell a bill of goods for their team? It’s kind of pathetic.

OK, got that off my chest. It’s not just the Royals broadcasters, although they do a bang-up job for a team that hasn’t made the postseason in 29 years. Just call the games. We’re smart enough to figure out what’s real and what’s not real.

OK, got that off my chest Part II.

Now for some Wednesday lists:

10 outstanding baseball play-by-play announcers

1. Jack Buck (I loved the man)

2. Duane Kuiper (listen to him on a Giants broadcast)

3. Denny Matthews (he does not get involved in the Kansas City hyperbole, much to his credit)

4. Bob Costas

5. Al Michaels (can do everything)

6. Skip Carey (funny, bright, knowledgeable. Sad he’s gone)

7. Vin Scully (amazing longevity and style)

8. Joe Buck (not his dad, but in the same ballpark)

9. Dan Shulman (very good on the ESPN Sunday night broadcast in place of Jon Miller)

10. Jon Miller (very good on the ESPN Sunday night broadcast preceding Dan Shulman)

Five (of many) things I love about League 42

1. Being around these kids, who are so funny and smart and appreciative

2. Getting to know their parents

3. Spending time with the volunteers who make League 42 go. I’ve met a bunch of new people and gotten to know people I knew just a little much better. It’s a great group.

4. My wife being involved. She’s such a trooper and is as committed as anyone.

5. Getting to coach again with my friend, Randy Smith. We’re taking a group of T-Ballers on; our first practice is Saturday.

Five songs I like by George Strait (remember, he’s at Intrust Bank Arena on Friday night)

1. Amarillo by Morning

2. Write This Down

3. All My Ex’s Live in Texas

4. I Saw God Today

5. Ocean Front Property

10 movies I’m looking forward to the rest of this year

1. Get On Up, Aug. 1 – Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in 42, plays another icon in this movie. James Brown.

2. Hercules, July 25 – Dwayne Johnson, The Rock, is Hercules.

3. Jersey Boys, June 20 – Love the play. Gotta think I’ll love Christopher Walken in the movie cast.

4. Edge of Tomorrow, June 6 – Tom Cruise in a futuristic thriller, which is about all Cruise does these days.

5. Jupiter Ascending, July 18 – I assume we’re all drawn to movies with “Jupiter” in the title.

6. Interstellar, Nov. 7 – Lots of buzz, which makes sense with Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain in the cast and Christopher Nolan directing.

7. Maleficent, May 30 – An evil Angelina Jolie? Yes, please.

8. Foxcatcher, TBD – Bennett Miller directs Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carrell.

9. Unbroken, Dec. 25 – A less-evil Angelina Jolie directs.

10. Gone Girl, Oct. 3 – Ben Affleck stars, David Fincher directs.

Five reasons I watch Wrestlemania

1. It provides for a fun gathering of family and friends.

2. I have always enjoyed professional wrestling, from the time I was a kid and went to Century II to see matches. I recall going even earlier to some armory near downtown, but I don’t remember where exactly or what it was called.

3. My son writes a wrestling blog for prowrestling.net.

4. The Undertaker’s 21-match winning streak, which is on the line against Brock Lesnar.

5. The Wyatt Family.

6. (bonus) Yes, I know wrestling is fake. Stop wondering. It’s fun, though, most of the time. Sometimes it’s boring. OK?