A GRIP ON SPORTS
I love this headline in the Oklahoma City newspaper. "Kevin Durant scores 36 to power Thunder past LeBron James' Heat." As if those were the only two guys playing last night. I guess to many folks, they are. Read on.
• Yes, Durant was good. Really good. And James was as well. But the difference in the Thunders' 105-94 NBA Finals-opening win over Miami was Russell Westbrook's third-quarter play. The shoot-first point guard from UCLA scored 12 of his 27 points in that quarter (as OKC rallied from a halftime deficit) and finished the night with 11 assists and eight rebounds. If Westbrook plays that well, the Thunder will win the title. If he reverts to the guy who takes selfish shots and makes incomprehensible passes, they won't. It's that simple. ... By the way, I've given up on my dream of getting everyone to refer to the Thunder as the Sonics and to deny they ever "really" left Seattle. I've found it makes former Sonic fans even angrier, which isn't a bad thing in a way, and it wasn't catching on. I guess I'm not the trendsetter James, Westbrook and those fake glasses are. It seems to be more fun to rip into Howard Schultz.
• Washington State: Want to know one big reason why the Cougar football program hasn't won a whole hell of a lot recently? Just look at these figures from ESPN. The network examined all the available financial data on football recruiting and ranked the teams according to the money they spent. The Cougars were last in the conference. And remember, they have the most expensive places to get in and out of for their coaches and recruits. So the gap is even larger than one might think. One thing I expect in the near future is WSU spending a more, a lot more, than it has in the past on recruiting. And expect the Cougars to move up the Pac-12 spending ladder even if other schools pay more as well. ... Jon Wilner keeps you informed on the on-going Pac-12 Network negotiations with the satellite providers. ... Speaking of recruiting, on the basketball side, CBSSports.com breaks down the recruiting classes around the nation. WSU's class is ranked seventh in the Pac-12. ... Washington announced its nonconference basketball schedule for next season and, surprise, it has just one true road game on it. ... Freelancer Howie Stalwick thinks the Cougars will finish fourth in the conference next season. ... As Arizona preps for the College World Series, its bullpen is well rested and its coach, Andy Lopez, has it hitting on all cylinders. ... Oregon expects to get to Omaha eventually.
• Shock: The Arena Football League owners made a contract offer to their players yesterday, one that last for seven years and includes significant pay increases. It also puts housing payment responsibilities in the players' hands, though the teams will still help them find places to stay. Jim Meehan has the story and a blog post. The housing change will mean a team like Spokane presents a significant financial advantage for a players, as housing costs are as much as half what they are elsewhere.
• Indians: Spokane opened mini-camp yesterday – the Indians have all of three days to get ready for Friday's opener – and worked on the fundamentals. Jess Brown has the story. ... The same thing is happening all over the Northwest League.
• Mariners: Not a good night for the Mariners yesterday in their 5-4 loss to woeful San Diego, but an important one. Felix Hernandez returned from his time off to rest his ailing back and didn't do as well as he, and the M's, hoped. Stephen Pryor, the rookie right-hander with the blazing fastball, hurt his groin covering first base and he and outfielder Mike Carp will probably head to the disabled list. Pitcher Blake Beavan and infielder Alex Liddi head back to the minors, replaced by Erasmo Ramirez and veteran outfielder Franklin Gutierrez respectively. Casper Wells should return along with another pitcher at some point. ... Justin Smoak was bitten a couple times last night by the Safeco fences. "It is what it is" is his attitude right now, but that will change as he gets further in his career, trust me. He very easily could become another in a long line of guys who blossom after they leave Seattle.
• Sounders: The Sounders play at Montreal on Saturday, a team this is modeled after them and almost hired their assistant coach in the offseason to lead the squad. ... The U.S. tied Guatemala on the road 1-1 in World Cup qualifying Tuesday.
• Golf: With the U.S. Open in San Francisco this weekend, all eyes are on Tiger Woods – his pairing with Phil Mickelson and Masters champion Bubba Watson (thanks Bud for the correction) should be a highlight of the first two days – though his former Stanford teammate and current Oregon golf coach Casey Martin is also in the spotlight.
• We're back on the radio studios this afternoon with Keith Osso and Rick Lukens from 3 to 6. You can listen here if you like. Until then ...