A GRIP ON SPORTS
Yesterday LeBron James decided to take his ball and go home. In this case, that's a good thing. Really. Read on.
• Can we agree on this: LeBron James is the best player in the NBA? With that as the baseline, then his decision – and I hesitate to use that noun – to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers is as big a deal for that city as Jim Brown retiring – or LeBron leaving in the first place. Cleveland has always been the brunt of jokes to the literati of America's big cities. The Mistake on the Lake. The place where the river caught on fire. Things like that. But it took four years in Miami for James to realize there is no place like home, not even the glittering confines of South Beach. Make no mistake about it. This isn't some over-the-hill superstar coming home to retire. This isn't like Ken Griffey Jr. in his second stint in Seattle. This is a player at the height of his abilities deciding he made a mistake in the first place to leave. That home and familiarity is better than chasing titles or the almighty dollar. But wait, he's probably going to be able to catch a few of the former and will make just as many of the latter as he wants. Good deal. The Cavaliers have some solid young talent, headlined by former No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving, a point guard who can also score. They seem to be in the running to entice Kevin Love from the Timberwolves, giving James another offensive option to make even better. So the oddsmakers jumped on board yesterday, installing Cleveland as the new favorite to win the NBA title next season. San Antonio? That's so last week. The future belongs to Cleveland. And yes, having written that, I was as shocked as you were. I'm not sure those five words have ever been strung together that way before.
• Speaking of the future, the Mariners seem to have some staying power this season. They needed a big game from Felix Hernandez last night and they got it. The now have 50 wins, the first time that number has been reached before the All-Star break since 2003. So what should they do? Everyone around here believes they should add a bat. Right-handed if possible. We understand that. But here's an outlier proposal from Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports: The M's should trade their best prospects for David Price (pictured). Make the pitching, which has been more than solid, even better. I'm not sure this is the way to go, especially considering there is probably little chance Price would stick around Seattle when his contract expires. But I'm wondering what you think of this idea? A good move, a bad idea or would it just seem a little panicky?
• WSU: It's Saturday but there is no mailbag from ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog. Instead, we have a look at the conference's safeties.
• Gonzaga: The preseason NIT's format may be changing and that might not be the best for a school like Gonzaga. The tournament was expected to contain 16 teams and that would mean two home non-conference games for GU. But the NIT is having trouble getting a full field and might shrink to eight. That could cost the Zags a home game. Andy Katz explains it over at ESPN.com.
• Golf: The Lilac Invitational usually features low scores at The Fairways and this week is no different. Jim Meehan was out there yesterday and filed this story.
• Shock: How much have the Shock improved since their struggles earlier this season? We may just find out tonight when they host the West's best AFL team, the Arizona Rattlers. Jim Meehan has an advance of tonight's game in the Arena. ... San Jose is on a roll – it has won 10 of its last 11 – and continued it with a 52-43 win over Tampa Bay last night.
• Shadow: Spokane is within one win of a league title.
• Mariners: Do you remember the last time Safeco Field was rocking and rolling toward a pennant race? Yep, it's been a long time. But a bit of that magic seemed to reappear last night when the M's were closing out a 3-2 win over the league-leading A's. And when Nick Punto was punched out on a 3-2 pitch to end it, the place exploded. As did Punto and his manager, Bob Melvin. They jumped umpire James Hoye, who tossed Punto even though the game was over. Yep, that's pennant-race material. ... Michael Saunders is back on the disabled list and Justin Smoak is back in the big leagues. Anyone think the M's don't need to go out and get another bat?
• Sounders: Clint Dempsey is back from the World Cup. His nose is a bit out of whack, literally, and he's a little tired, but he's ready to go this Sunday evening when the Sounders host Portland. In fact, he can't wait. ... Coach Sigi Schmid feels a red card should have been handed out in the last Portland match – it was – while Caleb Porter, his Timber counterpart, still doesn't. ... San Jose's Chris Wondolowski seems to have shaken off his World Cup miss.
• One of the funniest tweets I saw yesterday concerning James – and there were hundreds of them – was just a screenshot of a Google search. Typed into the search box was something to the effect of "how to unburn a jersey." Sorry folks. All those LeBron Cleveland jerseys that went up in smoke when he took his talents to South Beach are going to have to be replaced. Until later ...